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23 Sep 21. Transcom Nominee Calls Command a U.S. Asymmetric Advantage. The United States is a global superpower and this means global reach.
“There isn’t a scrap of Earth that we can’t reach out and touch when we need to,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said during a press conference in Qatar on Sept. 7. “We’ve demonstrated that time and time again. And again, our job is to make sure we stay vigilant and continue to develop capabilities.”
On the military side, these capabilities run from being able to deploy and sustain service members anywhere in the world to being able to drop a Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, on some terrorist hideout to being able to steam wherever international law allows. Underpinning this ability are the men and women — military and civilian — of U.S. Transportation Command.
President Joe Biden nominated Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost to be the next commander of Transcom. Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee was today.
Van Ovost — who currently commands the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command — said Transcom is America’s asymmetric advantage over potential foes. “If confirmed, I will ensure United States Transportation Command continues to provide our nation with one of its most important strategic and asymmetric advantages over our adversaries: The ability to rapidly project and sustain joint combat power at strategically relevant speeds, distances and scale at the time and place of our nation’s choosing,” she said.
The capabilities the command provides is increasingly important in an era of strategic competition with China and Russia, Van Ovost said. “Determined and emboldened strategic competitors, like China and Russia, continue rapid and deliberate development of advanced capabilities, and they challenge international norms with their coercive behavior,” she said. “As the national security strategic guidance emphasizes, we must maintain our military competitive edge by continuing to field and train the best force, adopt new technologies and build and maintain key partnerships.”
Building relationships with allies and partners is another aspect she emphasized. Access to ports or overflight rights is the lifeblood of the global command. Dealing with commercial companies — who carry vast amounts of military cargo — is also a responsibility for the commander.
Cyber abilities are important to the command from tracking shipments, to ensuring communications, to de-conflicting airspaces and more. Van Ovost told senators that malicious cyber operations pose significant threats to logistics. “These attacks target vulnerable supply chain elements and can interrupt the flow of goods and supplies around the world,” she said.
The non-combatant evacuation operation from Hamid Karzai International Airport last month highlighted the abilities of the Air Mobility Command — a part of Transom. “AMC played a significant role in the national and coalition effort to airlift more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan,” Van Ovost said. “It was a difficult and dynamic mission, where some of our airmen had to make decisions when lives are on the line. I’m so very proud of the work they did there, and that they continue to do every day.” (Source: US DoD)
23 Sep 21. House passes $1bn for Israel’s Iron Dome system in blowout vote. An Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system, right, and an American Patriot missile defense system are shown during a joint U.S.-Israel military exercise on March 8, 2018. (Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)
The House passed legislation overwhelmingly to provide $1bn to Israel to restock its Iron Dome short-range missile defense system just days after Democrats removed the funding from a broad stopgap spending bill.
The 420-9 vote saw only eight Democrats and one Republican vote “no,” and two Democrats vote “present.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said ahead of the vote that it would continue support under the U.S.-Israeli aid deal signed in 2016, which calls for $500 million in annual missile defense funding.
“The funding being appropriated today simply continues and strengthens this support,” Pelosi said during the hour-long debate. “Passage of this bill reflects the great unity, in Congress on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, for Israel. Security assistance to Israel is vital, because Israel security is an imperative for America’s security.”
Earlier in the week, a group of the House’s most liberal Democrats objected to the new money being included in a broader continuing resolution, meant to keep the government open past the start of the new fiscal year and through Dec. 3. That jeopardized its passage because Republicans were united against the CR’s inclusion of a clause to raise the country’s debt limit.
Iron Dome at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. (Army)
Republicans used the move to paint Democrats as anti-Israel, though Democrats said that was baseless.
“The Democratic Party has come under an extraordinary, bizarre influence of a group of anti-semites who also hate the state of Israel,” said South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, the top Republican on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism subcommittee.
The largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II, Israel had received $1.65bn for Iron Dome through 2020, according to a Congressional Research Service report last year. President Joe Biden, defying calls from progressive lawmakers to reduce military aid to Israel, pledged to replenish Israeli Iron Dome systems used to repel rockets fired at the Jewish State from Gaza in May.
“We cannot be talking only about Israelis’ need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Congress’s only Palestinian-American member, said in a floor speech. “We should also be talking about Palestinians’ need for security from Israeli attacks.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday that the objections of progressive lawmakers to the latest Iron Dome funding might have been worked out if she had been forewarned the money would be in the initial CR. But she also acknowledged progressives have broader problems with the administration’s Israel policy and said that lead Democrats should heed the shifting politics.
It was not immediately clear whether the Senate will take up with the House-passed bill. Ahead of the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. declined to say, but suggested Congress approving the funds was an inevitability.
“Iron Dome is very important and it’ll get done. That’s all I’m going to say,” Schumer told Defense News on Thursday morning.(Source: Defense News)
23 Sep 21. DLA’s Realignment of Industrial Hardware Procurement to Streamline Support, Yield Savings. Transfer of the industrial hardware supply chain from Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support to DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime is expected to better align weapons system support and enable the agency to support growing missions of other defense and federal agencies.
The transfer of procurement responsibility for more than 900,000 items ranging from nuts, bolts and seals began in March 2020 and will be completed Sept. 30, 2021, one year ahead of schedule. DLA Troop Support will officially deactivate the supply chain, and the commodity group will then be referred to as consumable hardware starting Oct. 1, 2021.
Moving industrial hardware work conducted by supplier-facing teams at DLA Troop Support to already existing customer-facing teams at DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime streamlines acquisition functions and will improve communication and collaboration among employees, customers and suppliers, said John Bray of DLA Human Resources.
“Industrial hardware was kind of an anomaly at DLA Troop Support with the parts being much more common in aviation and land and maritime systems,” he said. “Although customers shouldn’t notice much difference, they’ll now be able to get answers to all their questions on industrial hardware from one source depending on which type of system is involved.”
The nearly 500 employees who handled industrial hardware at DLA Troop Support have gradually transitioned to positions in other supply chains at the Philadelphia-based organization with no loss of grade or pay. Some will undergo reskilling as DLA Troop Support incurs new missions in support of whole-of-government partners. Those missions are estimated to increase DLA Troop Support’s revenue by $7 billion through fiscal year 2023.
“The plus-up in workloads for supply chains like medical makes this transition even more beneficial and comes at a good time especially for DLA Troop Support,” Bray said.
DLA expects to save about $8 million in annual labor costs as DLA Aviation and DLA Land and Maritime absorb the work using current employees, internal management reassignments and some new hires.
DLA leaders decided to streamline industrial hardware to increase effectiveness and efficiencies in 2018 as part of a series of initiatives to reduce material and operating costs, said Esther Wade, chief of DLA Logistics Operations’ Process Integration Division.
“Finding smarter ways to support our customers will also help reduce our cost-recovery rate, which is a huge benefit not only to warfighters but to other federal agencies as well,” she said.
The effort has been a collaboration between major subordinate commands and directorates throughout the agency to include business process, finance and human resources representatives.
“Being able to make this happen sooner than originally scheduled is a testament to our close partnerships and our desire to better serve the warfighters,” Wade said.
DLA has managed industrial hardware since the Navy transferred items like metal sheets, bearings and electrical cable to the Defense Industrial Supply Center in 1962. (Source: US DoD)
22 Sep 21. Biden makes peace offering to Macron as Aukus row rumbles on Paris agrees to return ambassador to Washington as Johnson tells French president to ‘prenez un grip.’ Joe Biden has offered an olive branch to French president Emmanuel Macron to soothe tensions that erupted over France’s exclusion from a new trilateral security pact that deprived Paris of a long-planned submarine deal. In a joint statement issued after a call between the two leaders, Biden appeared to concede that Paris had been left out of discussions between the US, Australia and the UK that led to a new deal for nuclear-powered submarines. “The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” they said. “President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard.” The two leaders also agreed to work on creating “conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives”. They will meet in Europe at the end of October. Macron had been outraged by the Aukus deal because he was unaware of the trilateral pact, and because he has set great store in France’s role as an Indo-Pacific power with citizens, island territories and 7,000 troops in the region. But while the US has been at pains to calm tensions and conciliate French anger, UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday suggested Macron needed to “prenez un grip” and recognise that the deal would boost global security. Speaking on a visit to Washington, the British leader said Macron should “donnez-moi un break” and get over his anger. “This is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” Johnson said. “It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology. It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China, for instance.”
Boris Johnson in Washington on Wednesday: ‘I think everybody has been a bit taken aback by the strength of the French reaction’ © PA Paris has been withering of Britain’s involvement in the deal. Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, suggested that Britain was a bit-part player, saying that “Great Britain in this matter is a bit of a fifth wheel on the carriage”. Meanwhile, Clément Beaune, France’s Europe minister, suggested Johnson was confirming that the UK was a “vassal” of the US. Johnson later said the US and UK had been “taken aback” by France’s reaction to the alliance. Speaking to journalists on the train to New York, Johnson said: “I think everybody has been a bit taken aback by the strength of the French reaction and we all want to reach out, everyone wants to reach out to Paris and try to sort something out.” Pushed on whether he understood why Macron was feeling aggrieved, the prime minister said: “There are no easy ways of having these conversations. It’s a very human thing to delay the frank conversation until the last possible moment. “I don’t know if anyone has been in that situation in their emotional life but it’s very human to put it off.” Asked if there was any possibility of France’s joining the pact in the future, Johnson replied: “Aukus has its own logic”. He added: “The basic point to get over Aukus is not meant to be exclusive or crowding any one out; it’s about three countries who have shared values and perspectives and such a high degree of trust they are willing to share very important details of how to run a nuke submarine.”
France and the US need to restore trust Paris recalled its ambassadors to the US, the UN and Australia over its exclusion from the trilateral Aukus deal and in protest at Canberra’s cancellation of a A$50bn (£26.6bn) diesel submarine deal with France in order to work with the US and Britain to build nuclear-propelled boats. Macron has now decided that the French ambassador to Washington will return next week, according to the joint statement. “He will then start intensive work with senior US officials,” it said. Before the call, a French official said the US was trying to repair the relationship in a “transactional” manner. According to the French side, Paris expected “clarifications” on why the US kept a European ally out of the loop on Indo-Pacific co-operation. Some British officials fear the dispute could lead to tougher French positions on sensitive issues including the Brexit trading relationship with Northern Ireland and on the policing of migrants trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK. (Source: FT.com)
22 Sep 21. Military aid for Israel removed from U.S. funding bill, but leadership pledges vote later this week. Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday removed $1bn in military funding for Israel from legislation to fund the U.S. government after objections from liberals in the House of Representatives, but party leaders pledged to bring the matter up again later this week. Some House Democrats objected to a provision in a stopgap spending bill to provide the additional funding so Israel can replenish its “Iron Dome” missile-defense system. The U.S. company Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) produces many Iron Dome components. The House is debating legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 3 and raise the nation’s borrowing limit. The dispute forced the House Rules Committee to adjourn briefly before leaders of the Appropriations Committee pledged that funding for the Israeli system would be included in a defense spending bill later this year. That could set the stage for another dispute over military aid for Israel. On Tuesday evening, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would bring a bill to the House floor later this week that would fully fund the missile-defense system, and he expected it to pass. “We ought to do it … it is absolutely essential,” Hoyer said.
Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman, one of the Democrats who had concerns about the provision, said earlier that House members had not been given enough time to consider the matter.
“The problem is leadership (will) just throw something on our table, give us about five minutes to decide what we’re going to do and then tries to move forward with it,” Bowman told reporters.
The United States has already provided more than $1.6 bn for Israel to develop and build the Iron Dome system, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report last year. The funding reflects perennially strong support for aid to Israel among both Democrats and Republicans.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that the removal of the funding was “a technical postponement” and he had been assured by U.S. Democratic leaders that funds for Iron Dome would be transferred soon.
Some liberal Democrats objected to U.S.-Israel policy this year, citing the many Palestinian casualties after Israel struck back following Hamas rocket attacks in May. Israel said most of the 4,350 rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict were blown out of the sky by Iron Dome interceptors. (Source: Reuters)
20 Sep 21. Investigation of Aug. 29 Airstrike in Kabul To Get Its Own Review. The investigation performed by U.S. Central Command to look into the Aug. 29 airstrike in Kabul will itself undergo further review, the Defense Department announced today.
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby today announced that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has asked Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall to task a military officer — three-stars or higher — to conduct a review of the Centcom investigation.
“Part of that review will be to examine the investigation itself, the thoroughness of the investigation, to study the degree to which any policies, procedures or targeting mechanisms may need to be altered going forward, if any, and of course to then take a look at what levels of accountability might be appropriate and if so at what level,” Kirby said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
According to Kirby, the secretary of defense has asked that the review be completed within 45 days. He also said that the role of that officer would be to make recommendations, rather than to take actions. He said if the reviewing officer believes that there needs to be accountability, that should be annotated in the report when it is passed on to the secretary of the Air Force and the secretary of defense.
On Friday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., briefed the findings of an investigation into an August 29 airstrike in Kabul, where a Hellfire missile was launched in an effort to kill ISIS-K planners, but instead killed 10 civilians.
“Having thoroughly reviewed the findings of the investigation and the supporting analysis by interagency partners, I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians — including up to seven children — were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie said.
It will be this investigation that was conducted by Centcom that will undergo further review by the senior Air Force officer.
As a result of that airstrike, the Defense Department has said it is looking into ex gratia payments, or payments made out of a sense of moral obligation rather than legal requirement, to the family members of those killed. Additionally, media has reported that some of the surviving family members have expressed concerns about staying in Afghanistan and that some of those family members have expressed an interest in coming to the United States. Kirby said Centcom is now looking into both issues.
“We know that Central Command is working through how best to reach out to them for the issue of payments, but also to determine the validity of this interest in moving out,” he said.
While Kirby said Centcom is still looking into both issues, and that it was too early to announce any decisions there, he did say he believes the secretary of defense would support those individuals coming to the U.S.
“I believe the secretary of defense would absolutely support, if the family wanted to leave Afghanistan and come to the United States. I believe he would support that,” Kirby said. “[That is] assuming that … all the proper legal hoops were worked through. I don’t want to get ahead of a process or decision that hasn’t been made yet, but I think he would absolutely consider that.” (Source: US DoD)
19 Sep 21. F-35 Jets and Their Carriers Can’t Talk to Each Other.
That mismatch could limit the light carriers’ combat power.
Here’s What You Need to Remember: In the near future, the Marines could use a drone to gather and relay data from F-35s. The new Group 5 drone, which the Corps hopes to deploy on assault ships starting in 2026, could possess the hardware and software to receive and “fuze” data from F-35s before passing it along to ships and ground forces.
The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy are moving quickly to adapt some of the fleet’s amphibious assault ships to embark large numbers of F-35B stealth fighters, transforming the amphibs into light carriers that can complement the Navy’s full-size flattops.
But there’s a problem. The F-35 is a “fifth-generation” plane with powerful sensors. It produces large volumes of data that can help it and other forces surveil, track and target the enemy.
The Navy’s 10 Wasp and America-class amphibious assault ships, by contrast, still are “third-generation” vessels and possess only limited capacity to receive, process and pass along the raw information that the F-35 generates.
That mismatch could limit the light carriers’ combat power. “I don’t want to bring Marine aviation down to third- and fourth-gen,” the Corps’ former director of expeditionary warfare Maj. Gen. David Coffman said in 2018. “I want to bring the rest of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force up to fifth-gen and exploit that technical expertise and have a fifth-gen MAGTF. The problem is, we’re having to embark a fifth-gen MAGTF on a third-gen ship, and we have to fix that.”
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America in 2019 set sail across the Pacfic region with no fewer than 13 U.S. Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters aboard. As an earlier proof of concept, USS Wasp in March 2019 deployed to the Pacific region with no fewer than 10 F-35Bs aboard. America in May 2019 forward-deployed to Japan, freeing up Wasp to return to the United States for maintenance.
A Navy assault ship usually embarks just six F-35s or older AV-8B Harrier jump jets plus dozens of helicopters. The vessels can increase their fixed-wing component by reducing the number of helicopters. At a minimum, an assault ships needs just a pair of H-60 helicopters for search and rescue.
With 10 Wasp- and America-assault ships each carrying 20 or more F-35s plus another 10 Nimitz-class supercarriers (and new Ford-class supercarriers under construction), the United States possesses at least 20 aircraft carriers.
By comparison, China in late 2019 is preparing to commission its second flattop capable of carrying fixed-wing planes. The Chinese fleet aims eventually to field six large carriers.
But the constraints the American light carriers’ datalinks and command-and-control systems impose on the F-35 could limit the vessels’ effectiveness in a major war. To work around the inferior systems on the Wasp- and America-class vessels, the fleet is experimenting with a more flexible approach to command and control.
The Navy’s San Antonio-class LPD amphibious transports, while lacking the big flight decks of the Wasp- and America-class vessels, possess much more sophisticated command-and-control systems than do the larger amphibs. “LPDs controlling F-35Bs in flight could help the Navy better tap into the capabilities of the jet, in addition to providing more options during an operation distributed across a vast operating space,” USNI News explained.
An LPD, presumably the Japan-based USS New Orleans, accompanied America on her late-2019 cruise with 13 F-35Bs and helped to control the fighters during training. LPDs could function as command platforms for strike groups centered on light carriers, helping to mitigate the plane-ship mismatch.
In the near future, the Marines could use a drone to gather and relay data from F-35s. The new Group 5 drone, which the Corps hopes to deploy on assault ships starting in 2026, could possess the hardware and software to receive and “fuze” data from F-35s before passing it along to ships and ground forces.
But the Group 5 drone program is in trouble. After spending just $11 m on the effort in 2019, the Marines requested from Congress $25 m to continue developing the drone in 2020. But Congress approved just $22m. “Lawmakers skeptical of the Corps’ ability to operate a larger Group-5 drone led to cuts,” Marine Corps Times reported.
The House Armed Services Committee in 2018 explained ed that it “believes the Marine Corps underestimates the required communications, datalink, launch, mission execution and recovery infrastructure or the human capital resources required to train, operate, maintain and sustain such a system.”
David Axe served as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
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