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03 Sep 21. Defense Department Establishes Supply Chain Resiliency Working Group. On Aug. 30, Gregory Kausner, performing the duties of Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, established a department-wide supply chain resiliency working group to address systemic barriers currently limiting supply chain visibility, conduct resiliency assessments, and develop effective mitigation actions.
“We are working to solve a problem that took 50 years to evolve. A comprehensive strategic approach will take time, dedicated attention, and resources,” Kausner said. “Effective implementation begins with understanding our vulnerabilities and the necessary responses, so we can focus our efforts to build greater resiliency across critical supply chains.”
Over the past year, the supply chain challenges for critical medical resources in response to COVID-19 emphasized the need for resiliency in our industrial base, and this continues to be a priority for the administration, Congress, and the DoD. In February, the president signed Executive Order 14017, America’s Supply Chains, in which he directed the U.S. government to undertake a comprehensive review of critical U.S. supply chains to identify risks, address vulnerabilities and develop a strategy to promote resilience. Multiple recent National Defense Authorization Acts require DoD to better understand its supply chains, and the current and future threats to their stability and security.
The Office of Industrial Policy, leading the working group, intends to do more than just address reporting requirements. “The working group is a down payment on a long-term problem,” explained Jesse Salazar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy. “It coalesces efforts from across the Department and provides a mechanism to develop a framework and proactive strategy to change the way DoD does business, and better secure our supply chains.”
The two-year effort will leverage work already being performed around supply chain resiliency across the department and the interagency. Initial findings will be included in the one-year report on the defense industrial base, in response to Executive Order 14017.
03 Sep 21. Defense Department of Defense Disestablishes Chief Management Office.
Pursuant to section 901(b) of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 (Public Law 116-283), Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has directed the transfer of each responsibility assigned to, and the personnel, functions, and assets of the former Chief Management Officer (CMO) of the Department of Defense to other DoD officials or organizations, effective Oct. 1, 2021. In summary:
- The authorities of the CMO will revert back to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, as the Chief Operating Officer of DoD, and the functions and responsibilities of the former CMO will transfer to Office of the Secretary of Defense Principal Staff Assistants (PSAs).
- The Director of Administration and Management (DA&M) will be designated as the Performance Improvement Officer and serve as the senior official for Defense Reform under the Deputy Secretary.
- The oversight of the Defense Business Systems will be shared by the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and the Chief Information Officer of the DoD.
- The Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (ATSD) for Intelligence Oversight (IO) will be combined with the Privacy Civil Liberty and Transparency (PCLT) functions under a new official called the ATSD (PCLT).
The realignments of former CMO responsibilities represent only the latest step in the ongoing efforts to improve strategic-level management and oversight at the highest levels of the department. The department will review these arrangements after one year to assess any potential need for adjustments. (Source: US DoD)
02 Sep 21. Readout of U.S.-India 2+2 Intercessional Dialogue. Department of Defense Spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners provided the following readout: Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs Dr. Ely Ratner co-chaired the fifth U.S. – India 2+2 Intercessional Dialogue, Sept. 1, alongside Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Ervin Massinga, Joint Secretary Somnath Ghosh of the Indian Ministry of Defense, and Joint Secretary Vani Rao of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
The Dialogue spanned the U.S. – India comprehensive global strategic partnership, including climate, public health, defense, trade, technology and governance.
U.S. and Indian officials exchanged views on a range of regional issues of shared interest, including in South Asia, East and Southeast Asia, and the Western Indian Ocean, and identified opportunities for enhanced cooperation on maritime security, regional connectivity, counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
With several defense enabling agreements in place, officials committed to driving greater interoperability between the U.S. and Indian militaries. They also discussed bilateral and multilateral joint service engagements, as well as ways to advance cooperation in new domains, such as space, cyber, and emerging technology areas. Discussions also drove progress toward operationalizing key bilateral initiatives on information-sharing, logistics, defense industrial cooperation, and joint doctrine engagement through liaison exchanges.
Building on growing bilateral ties, U.S. and Indian officials discussed new opportunities to strengthen multilateral cooperation between the United States, India, and other like-minded partners.
Today’s Intercessional laid the groundwork for a fruitful 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in the coming months, as the United States and India work together to sustain a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. Assistant Secretary Ratner expressed his confidence that the United States and India will continue to take their partnership to new heights as they jointly meet the challenges of this century. (Source: US DoD)
01 Sep 21. Deputy Secretary: How Industry Can Continue Supporting DOD’s National Security Priorities. Because of its sophistication, diversity and capacity to innovate, the U.S. Defense Industrial Base remains the envy of the world, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks said today.
Speaking virtually in the keynote address at the 30th annual Pennsylvania Showcase on Commerce, the deputy secretary addressed members of the Johnstown Area Regional Industries Procurement Technical Assistance Centers and the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.
“Every day, people like you and others across this country are designing, building and producing the critical materials and technologies that ensure our armed forces have every advantage they need,” she said.
The Defense Department’s industrial policy doesn’t involve five-year plans or a command economy approach, but instead believes market signals and clear investment priorities can unlock the power of American entrepreneurship, technological breakthroughs and individual achievement.
DOD’s research and procurement revolve around broad-based stakeholder coalitions and public-private partnerships, Hicks said, adding, “These have the ability to strengthen defense supply chains and catalyze economic growth across many communities.”
Pennsylvania contributes a great deal to DOD’s efforts, the deputy secretary said, and noted DOD invests more than $18bn in the commonwealth, because “this state knows how to deliver.”
“Companies in Pennsylvania manufacture a wide variety of products that are instrumental to critical DOD weapons systems, including munitions, missiles, artillery and explosives,” Hicks said. “Here in Johnstown, you enable our radar, ground vehicle, armored weapons system capabilities and more.”
The deputy secretary talked about how industry can continue supporting DOD’s national security priorities, and what DOD can do to improve its partnerships in commerce to create and modernize its military force.
“To defend the nation, the United States must overcome a multitude of challenges,” Hicks said. “The Department of Defense is prioritizing China as our long-term pacing challenge. Beijing has demonstrated increased military confidence and a willingness to take risks. Simultaneously, we face other advanced and persistent threats emanating from Russia, Iran, North Korea and other transnational and non-state actors.”
We are all part of “a new age of technology,” she emphasized. Many factors, such as the internet, additive manufacturing, analytics, robotics and more are transforming the way the DOD does business, she added.
“DOD is renewing its efforts to posture ourselves for the ‘future fight.’ A vibrant defense industrial base will be critical to our success,” Hicks said.
DOD wants to harness from the very best of America in sourcing a broad, diverse set of potential partners and suppliers — especially small businesses, she said.
And small businesses lead the nation in innovation — producing 16.5 times more patents than large patenting firms, Hicks said, adding that small businesses deliver rapid operational concepts, prototypes and demonstrators that allow DOD to respond with agility and efficiency.
DOD has made significant achievements in its work with small businesses, Hicks said: The department received an “A” from the Small Business Administration for meeting its contracting goals for seven straight years; DOD spent $80.3bn with small businesses, with 45% of those awards going to disadvantaged or woman-owned businesses; and in the past 10 years, DOD dramatically increased small business spending in research and development by 83%. In that same time, DOD expanded spending in small business manufacturing by 28%, she added.
“Yet, over the past decade, small businesses in the defense industrial base shrunk by over 40%. The data shows that if we continue along the same trend, we could lose an additional 15,000 suppliers over the next 10 years,” the deputy secretary said.
“I realize that doing business with DOD is not always easy. Because of our unique security requirements and procurement practices, we can be a challenging customer,” Hicks said.
But DOD is committed to examining the administrative barriers small businesses face in working with the department and will take action to remove barriers where it can, she said.
“To do that effectively, we need your engagement,” Hicks said. “This week, we are putting out a notice in the Federal Register seeking industry input on the barriers you face.”
DOD has made significant strides to make its acquisition efforts more agile, but it needs industry to help the department understand where it can make additional progress, she noted. Such input will go into DOD’s small business strategy, which Hicks said she intends to announce before the end of this year.
The deputy secretary also has created a DOD innovation steering group, which is focused on how DOD can better engage with innovators across the country — whether it’s an established defense company or small business that’s not familiar with DOD.
DOD is also reinvigorating its small business programs to provide streamlined, easier-to-use entry points into the defense marketplace, and is ensuring better long-term planning for its small business programs, Hicks said.
That means leveraging DOD’s small-business program website as a single point of entry — at business.defense.gov — which contains an expanding set of toolkits to help companies get started, she added.
Additionally, DOD is enhancing its nationwide network of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. DOD has 95 PTACs across the nation — including the Johnstown Area Regional Industries PTAC — that help businesses pursue contracts with DOD and other federal agencies, Hicks said.
“And we will continue to leverage programs like Small Business Innovation Research which, on average, commercializes $7bn of small business innovations that are connected directly to our warfighting capabilities,” the deputy secretary emphasized.
DOD is working alongside the White House, the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies to create more opportunities for onboarding small businesses on our contracting vehicles, Hicks said.
“This [Biden] administration will leverage the purchasing power of the federal government to ensure equity and inclusion of small businesses in our underserved communities,” she added.
That includes increasing the share of dollars that the federal government spends on small, disadvantaged businesses — tripling the contracting goal to 15% by 2025, Hicks noted.
“Simultaneously, the secretary of defense and I will continue to increase outreach to underserved communities to foster additional potential connections, opportunities and investments,” the deputy secretary said.
Additionally, DOD has made sure its fiscal year 22 budget request protects its mentor protégé program, which provides opportunities to both mentor and mentee firms, she said.
“Even as the department continues to focus on increased supply-chain resilience and innovation and modernization, we remain committed to working with local communities where we see opportunity,” Hicks said.
(Source: US DoD)
01 Sep 21. US commits to $60m in aid to Ukraine before WH visit. The United States is promising up to $60m in military aid to Ukraine in advance of a White House meeting on Sept. 1 between President Joe Biden and his counterpart in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Biden administration said in a notification to Congress that the aid package for Ukraine was necessary because of a “major increase in Russian military activity along its border” and because of mortar attacks, cease-fire violations and other provocations.
“Russia’s buildup along the Ukrainian border has highlighted capability shortfalls in the Ukrainian military’s ability to defend against a Russian incursion,” the notification stated. “Ukraine’s significant capability gaps must be urgently addressed to reinforce deterrence in light of the current Russian threat.”
Zelenskyy is set to meet Biden as part of a White House visit that the administration hopes will demonstrate support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russia’s seizure of Crimea and backing of armed separatists in the country’s east. The White House has also said that Biden intends to encourage Zelenskyy’s efforts to tackle corruption in the country.
Zelenskyy, meanwhile, is expected to raise with Biden Washington’s decision to not block the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany that bypasses Ukraine. The Russia-to-Europe gas pipeline is vehemently opposed by Ukraine and Poland as well as both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, with Zelenskyy describing it as a powerful geopolitical weapon for Russia.
The new military aid is meant to demonstrate that the U.S. is committed to Ukraine’s security at a time when the former Soviet republic has sought stronger Western backing during Russia’s troop buildup and escalating tensions. The new package will include more Javelin anti-tank missiles, which Kyiv sees as critical to defending against the Russia-backed separatists who have rolled through eastern Ukraine.
The Pentagon in March announced a $125m military aid package for Ukraine, including two armed patrol boats to help the country defend its territorial waters. The U.S. says it has committed more than $2.5bn in military aid to Ukraine since its conflict with Russia began in 2014.
Military aid to Ukraine became a politically freighted issue in the Trump administration. Allegations that then-President Donald Trump withheld assistance to Ukraine as part of a scheme to press the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter formed the basis of the first impeachment case against him. Trump was acquitted by the Senate in February 2020. (Source: Defense News)
01 Sep 21. House panel approves $24bn defense boost. The House Armed Services Committee has endorsed a Republican plan to add $24bn more than President Joe Biden requested for defense, easing the path for spending on additional ships, aircraft and ground vehicles.
The panel voted 42-17 during its markup of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, with 14 Democrats joining Republicans on the $23.9bn measure. It was offered by the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who called Biden’s budget request inadequate to deter Russia and China.
Though appropriations bills ultimately set spending levels, the vote is a strong step toward boosting defense after the Senate Armed Services Committee, on a bipartisan basis, advanced its own $25bn increase in July. If approved, the new top-line spending level for defense would be $740bn.
The plus-up is expected to repel progressive Democrats and attract Republicans for the committee’s vote on the NDAA the evening of Sept. 1 and the full House’s vote later this month.
“I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration,” Rogers said. “The defense of our nation will not be shortchanged by Congress. I thank my colleagues for adopting this amendment to support the men and women who serve in our armed forces.”
The measure would increase research and development by $5.2bn and weapons procurement spending by $9.8bn, drawing significantly from the military’s unfunded priorities lists. The bulk of the procurement spending goes to sea power, protecting three cruisers the Navy sought to retire and buying another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, an amphibious assault ship and a third Virginia-class submarine.
HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., opposed the plus-up, arguing it takes the pressure off the Pentagon to rid its budget of waste. But the most vocal opposition came from progressives, who argued that increasing defense spending conflicts with Democratic priorities and that the end of the war in Afghanistan ought to yield savings for domestic issues.
“It’s remarkable to me that as we end our long and expensive campaign in Afghanistan, so many are concluding that what we need is more war, more weapons and bns of dollars more than even what the Pentagon is asking for,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif. “And that many of the very same voices who say they are very worried about our debt and deficit are also demanding a sizable increase to this bill.”
HASC Vice Chair Elaine Luria, D-Va., was the first Democrat to announce support, citing the need to stabilize the shipbuilding industrial base and stand up to China, but she was followed at the hearing by other centrist Democrats.
“The leadership at the Department of Defense has expressed a need for funding that exceeds what has come in the president’s budget request,” said Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. “Last month I traveled to [the Indo-Pacific Command theater]. I think the threat is real; our qualitative advantage is at risk. Our adversaries ― China, Russia ― create dilemmas and threats.” (Source: Defense News)
01 Sep 21. Biden says Afghanistan exit marks the end of U.S nation-building.
- Biden says era of ‘nation-building’ is over
- Taliban parade coffins draped in U.S., NATO flags
- Taliban beat women in street with sticks -witness
- U.S. Treasury issues license authorizing aid to Afghanistan
Aug 31 (Reuters) – Facing sharp criticism over the tumultuous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday it was the best available option to end both the United States’ longest war and decades of fruitless efforts to remake other countries through military force.
Biden portrayed the chaotic exit as a logistical success that would have been just as messy even if it had been launched weeks earlier, while staying in the country would have required committing more American troops.
Also read: Defiant Biden rejects criticism of Afghan exit, points to Afghan military and Trump
Also read: What happens now that U.S. troops have left Afghanistan?
“I was not going to extend this forever war,” he said in a speech from the White House.
Earlier in the day, the Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan in a lightning advance this month, fired guns into the air and paraded coffins draped in U.S. and NATO flags as they celebrated their victory.
In his first remarks since the final pullout of U.S. forces on Monday, Biden said 5,500 Americans had been evacuated and that the United States had leverage over the Islamist militant group to ensure 100 to 200 others could also depart if they wanted to.
He said Washington would continue to target militants who posed a threat to the United States, but would no longer use its military to try to build democratic societies in places that had never had them.
“This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries,” he said.
The Taliban now control more territory than when they last ruled before being ousted in 2001 at the start of America’s longest war, which took the lives of nearly 2,500 U.S. troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans, and cost some $2trn.
More than 123,000 people were evacuated from Kabul in a massive but chaotic airlift by the United States and its allies over the past two weeks, but many of those who helped Western nations during the war were left behind.
Biden said the only other option would have been to step up the fight and continue a war that “should have ended long ago.” Starting the withdrawal in June or July, as some have suggested, would only have hastened the Taliban’s victory, he said.
But Biden’s decision was far from popular and he has faced criticism from Republicans and fellow Democrats, as well as from foreign allies.
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the departure had abandoned Americans behind enemy lines.
“We are less safe as a result of this self-inflicted wound,” he said in his home state of Kentucky.
ELATION AND FEAR
The U.S. invasion in 2001, which followed the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, stopped Afghanistan from being used by al Qaeda as a base to attack the United States and ended a period of Taliban rule from 1996 in which women were oppressed and opponents crushed.
There was a mixture of triumph, elation and fear on the streets of Afghanistan as the Taliban celebrated their victory.
“We are proud of these moments, that we liberated our country from a great power,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
While crowds lined the streets of the eastern city of Khost for a mock funeral with coffins draped with Western flags, long lines formed in Kabul outside banks closed since the fall of the capital.
“I had to go to the bank with my mother but when I went, the Taliban (were) beating women with sticks,” said a 22-year-old woman who spoke on condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that and it really frightened me.”
The Taliban’s previous government brutally enforced a radical interpretation of Islamic law but Biden has said the world would hold them to their recent commitments to uphold human rights and allow safe passage for those wanting to leave Afghanistan.
Western donors have said future aid to the war and drought-ravaged country will be contingent on those promises being met.
European Union countries proposed to step up assistance to Afghanistan and its neighbours, amid fears that up to half a million Afghans could flee their homeland by the end of the year.
The United States last week issued a license authorizing it and its partners to continue to facilitate humanitarian aid in Afghanistan even though the Taliban is blacklisted by Washington, a Treasury Department official told Reuters.
The license authorizes the U.S. government and its contractors to support humanitarian assistance to people in Afghanistan, including the delivery of food and medicine, despite U.S. sanctions on the Taliban.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States was concerned about the potential for Taliban retribution and mindful of the threat posed by ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate that claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghan civilians.
At least seven Taliban fighters were killed in clashes with anti-Taliban rebels in the Panjshir valley north of the capital on Monday night, two members of the opposition group said. (Source: Reuters)
30 Aug 21. Rogers proposes $25bn defense plus-up ahead of NDAA markup. In a rebuke to President Joe Biden’s proposed defense budget, a key Republican is recommending $25 bn more in spending for the House’s draft defense policy bill. House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., plans to offer an amendment to his panel’s draft 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which is set to be debated in committee on Wednesday. It would increase weapons procurement spending by $9.8 bn, drawing significantly from the military’s unfunded priorities lists.
Defense News obtained multiple summaries of the amendment, which were circulating on Capitol Hill Monday. The amendment comes as HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., unveiled a draft NDAA that matches Biden’s request of $744bn for Pentagon and Energy Department defense programs.
Republicans, and some Democrats, have said for weeks that Biden’s national defense proposal, which planned to divest some ships and aircraft to prioritize modernization, is inadequate to deter a rising China. Rogers said in a statement he hopes to see the amendment supported.
“We cannot afford to cut corners and play politics with our national security,” Rogers said. “President Biden’s proposed defense budget for FY22 was wholly inadequate — leaving our men in women in uniform in a vulnerable position and projected weakness to our adversaries.”
Rogers’ amendment would bar the Navy from decommissioning three aging cruisers, as part of a $4.7bn seapower spending addition over Smith’s mark. It also would include $1.5bn for another DDG-51; $1.2bn for an additional amphibious assault ship; $668m for an added oiler and $567m to expand procurement to three Virginia-class submarines per year.
The amendment would add $1.7bn for air power, including $394m for four additional KC-130Js for the Navy and Marine Corps; $340m for two additional P-8 Poseidons for the Navy; and $212m for nine additional UH-60 Blackhawks for the Army National Guard.
It proposes $878m in ground vehicle additions, including $234m for Abrams tank upgrades; $183m for HMMWV modifications; $139m for Stryker upgrades and $120m for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.
Another $5.2bn is added for research, development, test, evaluation accounts, including $3.7bn for “emerging technologies,” according to one summary. Budget lines for military construction and facilities improvements would net another $3.8bn in total.
At least one Democrat, House Armed Services Committee vice chair Elaine Luria, has announced support for the Rogers amendment. Luria, who represents a shipbuilding-heavy district in Virginia, lauded the bill’s “significant investments” in shipyards and naval vessels that would be used to deter China in Pacific waters.
“Without additional resources, we will lose another generation of shipbuilding in this country, and we will be less prepared to defend both the U.S. and our allies’ interests,” Luria said. “I intend to join Ranking Member Rogers and support the amendment adding $25 bn to our defense budget.”
Last month, the evenly-divided Senate Armed Services Committee advanced a version of the FY22 NDAA that included $25 bn above Biden’s proposal. A FY22 defense appropriations bill that tracks with Biden’s budget advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee, but with less support.
In the narrowly divided House and the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will likely need Republicans to pass defense measures. For months, Rogers has been among the Republicans signaling that the path to gaining GOP support involves a defense plus-up. Smith and other lead Democrats have acknowledged that Republicans have significant leverage in that push.
Earlier this month, Smith told Defense News he doesn’t agree with the increase but is open to the idea as a means of advancing the bill.
“The people who want to spend more than the Biden number have built a lot of support, and yes, I think that [$25bn increase] is a potential bipartisan pathway,” Smith said. “I don’t support it, I don’t think that’s where we should go, but at the end of the day, I have one vote.”
“The reality is, as we’ve seen with the defense appropriations bill, we do not have the votes to pass it with just Democrats, and that’s the worst kept secret in the building,” he added. “And it is very important to pass a defense bill; it has a lot of important policies that we’re trying to get done.”
Also on Monday, more than two dozen House Democrats warned against an increase, in a letter led by progressive Reps. Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee to Smith, rebuking the SASC’s plus-up when “America’s largest national security thread is a global pandemic.”
“Surpassing the President’s request by such a larger and unwarranted amount should not be the starting position of the House Armed Services Committee, particularly when current defense spending levels should already be reduced,” they wrote. (Source: Defense News)
30 Aug 21. Military Phase of Evacuation Ends, as Does America’s Longest War. The last military planes have left Kabul and the evacuation operation is over, Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters today.
“I’m here to announce the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third country nationals and vulnerable Afghans,” McKenzie said via teleconference from his headquarters in Tampa. “The last C-17 lifted off from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, this afternoon, at 3:29 p.m., East Coast time, and the last manned aircraft is now clearing the airspace above Afghanistan.”
The last C-17 departed with Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of troops in Kabul, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson aboard. It was fitting the State and Defense leaders left together, McKenzie said.
That C-17s played such a part in the evacuation is only fitting. On Oct. 7, 2001, Pentagon leaders announced that C-17 aircraft were dropping humanitarian rations to starving Afghans, even as American military might went after al-Qaida and the Taliban leaders that were sheltering Osama bin Laden and his murderous cult.
The C-17 departure today was both the end of the military portion of the evacuation and “also the end of the nearly 20 year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001,” McKenzie said. “It is a mission that brought Osama bin Laden to an end, along with many of his al-Qaida co-conspirators, and it was not a cheap mission.”
More than 800,000 American service members and 25,000 civilians served in Afghanistan over the almost 20-year mission. A total of 2,461 U.S. service members and civilians were killed and more than 20,000 were injured. “Sadly, that includes 13 U.S. service members who were killed last week by an (Islamic State of Khorasan) suicide bomber. We honor their sacrifice today. As we remember their heroic accomplishments. No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they’re feeling at this moment, but I will say that I’m proud that both my son and I have been a part of it,” he added.
While the military evacuation is complete, the diplomatic mission to ensure additional U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave, continues.
This was the largest non-combatant evacuation operation ever conducted by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden ordered the start of the NEO operation on Aug. 14. Since then, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which includes 6,000 Americans and more than 73,500 third country nationals and Afghan civilians. “In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combined to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie praised the more than 5,000 service members who enabled the operation. He said the number of people evacuated represented a monumental accomplishment, enabled by the “determination, the grit, the flexibility and the professionalism of the men and women of the U.S. military and our coalition partners who were able to rapidly combine efforts and evacuate so many under such difficult conditions.”
Coalition contributions were invaluable and McKenzie cited the contributions of Norway, which kept a hospital open during the evacuation that was instrumental in caring for some of the wounded from the ISIS strike.
The situation on the ground over the past month has been complicated. Assumptions and plans changed daily, the general said. One plan was to work with a functioning ally in the Afghan government and security forces. Another was based on the premise that the outer provinces would fall to the Taliban, but that Kabul would stand. Finally, it became apparent that the government was collapsing and the security forces giving up. Each time the planners in U.S. Central Command rolled with the punches. They positioned forces in the region to act instantly and pre-positioned aircraft. They worked with interagency officials and with international partners.
McKenzie himself had to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, to tell them that if the group interfered with the U.S. non-combatant evacuation operation, there would be severe consequences. He said they were “businesslike and pragmatic” and did not interfere with U.S. operations on the airfield. This included military operations to bring Americans to be evacuated.
And they accomplished the mission. “The last 18 days have been challenging,” McKenzie said. “Americans can be proud of men and women of the armed forces who met these challenges head on.” (Source: US DoD)
30 Aug 21. Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III On the End of the American War in Afghanistan. Today, we completed the U.S. military evacuation of civilians and the removal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
I am deeply saddened that, in the course of this historic evacuation mission, we lost 13 of our own, along with so many others who were killed and wounded days ago by cruel terrorists.
We mourn alongside the families of those who were lost, and we will never forget your loved ones’ heroism and sacrifice. They gave their lives trying to save the lives of others. And I know that you share my pride in them.
I hope that all Americans also share my pride in all the troops and diplomats who raced to help save lives during those critical days of August.
Our service members secured, defended, and ran a major international airport. They learned how to help consular officers screen and verify visa applicants. They provided medical care, food and water, and compassion to people in need. They flew tens of thousands of people to safety, virtually around the clock. They even delivered babies.
No other military in the world could accomplish what we and our allies and partners did in such a short span of time. That is a testament not only to our forces’ capabilities and courage but also to our relationships and the capabilities of our allies and partners.
Over the course of more than four decades in service, I have never ceased to be amazed at what an American service member can do. I remain in awe. And I am thankful for the skill and professionalism with which they do it.
I want to thank all those who labored so hard and under such difficult circumstances over the past few weeks, including dozens of our diplomats, to move some 6,000 of our fellow citizens out of harm’s way and evacuate more than 123,000 people from Afghanistan—the vast majority of whom are Afghans, friends and allies who fought by our side and fought for our shared values.
We will help these Afghan friends as they now turn to the task of beginning new lives in new places. We will provide these men, women, and children with temporary living spaces, medical care, and sustenance at military facilities at home and abroad. We will continue to support the interagency effort led by the Department of Homeland Security to screen them and to process some of them to lead new lives in America. And we will work hard to defend our citizens from terrorist threats emanating from anywhere around the globe.
Now, the end of this operation also signals the end of America’s longest war.
We lost 2,461 troops in that war, and tens of thousands of others suffered wounds, seen and unseen.
The scars of combat don’t heal easily, and often never heal at all.
As we look back as a nation on two decades of combat and struggle in Afghanistan, I hope that we will do so with as much thoughtfulness and humility as we can muster. And I know that we will wish for a brighter future for the Afghan people—for all their sons, and for all their daughters.
Amid these discussions, we must remember our Gold Star families, and the support that we owe them. We must remember the wounded and the family members and the caregivers who still tend to them. We must remember the veterans of this war, those still on duty and those who have hung up the uniform. This country owes them all a profound debt of gratitude.
And we must remember the citizens whom we serve and the nation that we defend.
For my part, I am proud of the part that we played in this war. I am proud of the men and women who led me. I am proud of those with whom I served and led. And I am proud of the intrepid, resilient families who made what we did possible. (Source: US DoD)
30 Aug 21. HASC Seeks Constraints On F-35 Buys, Multi-Year Sustainment Contract Plans. In a July report on long-term F-35 costs, the GAO found that the Air Force “needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by $3.7mi (47%) by 2036, or costs in that year alone will be $4.4bn more than it can afford.”
The House Armed Services Committee’s draft policy bill slams the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program on its astronomical costs — and puts in place language that could both constraint the number of the fifth-generation fighters procured by the Defense Department and affect prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s sustainment work share.
Chairman Adam Smith’s markup of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), obtained by Breaking Defense, sets “Affordability, Operational, and Sustainment Cost Constraints” for the F-35 program, based on the “affordability targets” assessed by the Air Force, Navy and Marines of the three fighter variants. (The full committee is set to vote on the draft on Sept. 1.)
In essence, this language means that budget planners would have to take into account the long-tail costs of sustaining the jets — a longstanding issue for the F-35 — in order to decide how many of the fighters they can afford to maintain in their eventual fleet. The move, if passed by both sides of Capitol Hill, could ultimately force the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corp to downsize their overall planned fleet size.
Including jets already procured, the Air Force has the biggest buy planned, with 1,763 F-35A variants. The Navy is planning for a fleet of 273 of the carrier-based F-35Cs, and the Marines, up to 353 of the vertical take off and landing capable F-35Bs.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) smacked the F-35 program for its ever-increasing sustainment costs that the congressional watchdogs say are simply not affordable.
Per the GAO: “DOD plans to acquire nearly 2,500 F-35 aircraft for about $400bn. It projects spending another $1.27trn to operate and sustain them—an estimate that has steadily increased since 2012. The military services collectively face tens of billions of dollars in sustainment costs that they project will be unaffordable. For example, the Air Force needs to reduce estimated annual per-plane costs by $3.7m (47%) by 2036, or costs in that year alone will be $4.4bn more than it can afford.”
DoD asked for some $12bn in its fiscal 2022 budget request to buy 85 F-35 JSF aircraft; with the Air Force accounting for the bulk of the procurement plan with 48 jets at $4.5bn. However, the Air Force broke with tradition by failing to include extra jets in its annual “unfunded priorities” wish list of equipment that didn’t make the budget chop inside DoD, precisely due to concerns about affordability. Overall, the HASC language would cut the budget for F-35As by $194.1m and the F-35C by $63.3m, while keeping the F-35B stable.
The HASC draft bill also requires Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to submit a report, no later than March 1, 2022, on sustainability costs — before the F-35 Joint Program Office can move to a performance based logistics (PBL) contract with prime contractor Lockheed Martin.
The HASC draft requires a “detailed description and explanation of, and the actual cost data related to, sustainment costs for the F–35 aircraft program, including an identification and assessment of cost elements attributable to the Federal Government or to contractors (disaggregated by the entity responsible for each portion of the cost element, including at the prime contractor and major subcontractor levels) with respect to such sustainment costs.”
Lockheed Martin for some time has been pushing to move from today’s annual contracts to a five-year PBL deal to start in 2023, asserting that this would significantly cut sustainment costs by allowing the prime and its subcontractors to better invest in efficiency measures.
Smith’s markup specifically calls out the need for greater industrial competition in the F-35 program, on the basis that doing so would drive down costs. Critics of the program have pointed out that Lockheed controls the vast majority of the sustainment work, and hence has little incentive to give best prices to the government customer; the company has responded that as the maker of the jet, it is best positioned to manage the technical challenges on the advanced design.
The HASC language reads: The committee is concerned about rising sustainment costs in the F-35 program, as these costs create affordability challenges for the services. As such, the committee is interested in determining the Department of Defense’s plans to increase competition within the F-35 enterprise, including what intermediate steps could be taken in the near term to leverage the whole of industry outside the original equipment manufacturers. Increased competition for F-35 sustainment could reduce lifecycle costs, increase efficiency, and drive innovation while strengthening the overall viability of the program.
Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than March 1, 2022, on the Department’s efforts to reduce sustainment costs by driving competition into the F-35 program. The briefing should include information on known barriers that must be overcome to facilitate a competitive sustainment environment, as well as recommended solutions.
The bill further would require DoD’s undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment to submit to congressional defense committees “an acquisition strategy for continued development, integration, and operational fielding of the Adaptive Engine Technology Program propulsion system,” into the Air Force F-35A fleet beginning in 2027.
Under that program, the service has been testing prototypes of more powerful engines built by current F-35 engine maker Pratt & Whitney, as well as General Electric, for possible future upgrades to the fighters. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
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