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30 Sep 21. Supply Chain Resiliency Is Whole-of-Government Effort. Ensuring the U.S. military’s continued access to critical materials to enable the nation’s defense is a priority of the Defense Department. But the dependability of America’s supply chain doesn’t just affect the military, it’s a concern for the entire U.S. government, said Jesse Salazar, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy.
“President Biden’s executive order on America’s supply chains … distinctly focused on changes in policies and processes geared toward a new approach for 21st century supply chains,” Salazar said during remarks at ComDef2021. “Building on the work of prior efforts, the conversation of industrial base security and resiliency has expanded beyond the Department of Defense to a whole-of-government effort.”
At DOD, Salazar is responsible for development of policies for the maintenance of the United States defense industrial base.
In Executive Order 14017, published in February, the president asked for a 100-day supply chain review, where the Department of Energy would report on high-capacity batteries; the Department of Commerce would report on semiconductors; the Department of Health and Human Services would report on pharmaceuticals; and the DOD report would identify risks in the supply chain for critical minerals and other identified strategic materials, including rare earth elements.
Those four reports together, Salazar said, provide a clear outline of our approach to tackling supply chain resiliency from a whole-of-government perspective.
The department’s own report laid out a set of recommendations to ensure the U.S. has continued access to strategic and critical minerals needed for economic security, addressing the climate crisis and national defense.
The recommendations in the department’s report are focused on developing and fostering new sustainability standards for strategic and critical, material-intensive industries; expanding sustainable domestic production and processing capacity, including non-traditional mining and recycling; strengthening U.S. stockpiles; and working with allies and partner nations while promoting greater global transparency.
The president’s executive order also requires DOD and five other federal agencies to submit within one year a report on supply chains in their sectors of the economy. The DOD report will focus on the defense industrial base. That report must also identify areas where civilian supply chains are dependent upon competitor nations. Salazar said development of this report is in progress now; its expected release date is in February.
Salazar also said a supply chain resiliency working group was established in August to address systemic barriers limiting supply chain visibility, conduct resilience assessments and develop effective mitigation assessments.
“The two-year effort will leverage work already being performed around supply chain resiliency across the department and interagency,” Salazar said. “Initial findings will be included in the one-year report, as well.”
Central to ensuring the reliability of America’s supply chain is working closely with allies and partners, Salazar said.
“Our supply chains are — and continue to be — global and complex,” he said. “It is only with support from our allies and partners, many of whom provide key components and expertise for our weapons systems, that we will be successful.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Sep 21. Congress Shouldn’t Rubber-Stamp Hypersonic Weapons. It is time — in fact, past time — for Congress to demand answers about the Pentagon’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons capabilities. The lure of hypersonic weapons — the ability to strike just about anywhere on the planet in hours or even minutes — is obvious to military leaders. But with the Air Force secretary recently throwing cold water on his own service’s hypersonic plans, now is also the time to take a cold eyed view of where the technology sits, according to the Arms Control Association’s Shannon Bugos. In the op-ed below, Bugos argues that amid the hypersonic gold rush, not enough thought is being put to how to develop and use these systems, and how quickly everything could go wrong.
Hypersonic weapons have been all the rage in recent years. Pentagon officials rarely miss an opportunity to tout the importance of accelerating their development amid the department’s prioritization of enhancing conventional deterrence against Russia and China. Plus, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for the aggressive pursuit of the weapons.
But a closer look suggests all may not be well in hypersonic paradise.
“I’m not satisfied with the pace,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference about the service’s hypersonic weapon development plans.
“The target set that we would want to address, and why hypersonics are the most cost-effective weapons for the US, I think it’s still, to me, somewhat of a question mark,” the secretary said on Sept. 20. “I haven’t seen all the analysis that’s been done to justify the current program.”
We raised similar questions in a new Arms Control Association report published this month, titled “Understanding Hypersonic Weapons: Managing the Allure and the Risks.” It is not clear that the weapons — which are distinguished by their high speed, greater maneuverability, and unique flight altitude relative to existing US non-nuclear missiles — are the military game-changers many proponents make them out to be. And if the missiles do perform as intended, their unique attributes could exacerbate escalation dangers in a conflict, including to the nuclear level.
The US rush to field hypersonic weapons merits more than a simple rubber-stamping and instead much greater scrutiny and oversight than Congress has provided to date.
Agile, open networks will let the DoD make command decisions faster, distribute its forces, and operate at a standoff distance to counter new weaponry like hypersonic missiles.
The upcoming fiscal year will see at least eight prototype hypersonic glide vehicle and cruise missile programs under development. The Trump administration requested $2.6 bn and $3.2bn in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, respectively, for all hypersonic-related work, while the Biden administration this past May asked for $3.8bn for fiscal year 2022. The Biden administration appears intent on proceeding all ahead with the development and fielding plans that began under the Trump administration.
Yet, the Defense Department has thus far offered varying and at times conflicting rationales for the US pursuit of hypersonic missiles.
Gen. John Hyten, currently vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has stressed that hypersonic weapons will allow for “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” (However, recent reports indicate that some of the weapons may not be able to strike mobile targets anytime soon, if at all.)
Meanwhile, other officials have focused less on the military benefits and more on the need to win the competition with China and Russia in the development of the technology.
When Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall used his Sept. 20 keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association conference to claim that China is developing the ability to launch “global strikes from space” against US targets, it raised more than a few eyebrows and sent military analysts scrambling. After all, the decision to bring up…
Russia fielded the Avangard, a hypersonic glide vehicle, in 2019 and is developing an air-launched hypersonic missile (the Kinzhal) and a sea-launched hypersonic cruise missile (the Tsirkon). China displayed a ballistic missile designed specifically to carry a hypersonic glide vehicle (the DF-17) during its 2019 military parade. While the United States is only pursuing conventional hypersonic weapons at this time, Beijing and Moscow appear to be seeking not only conventional but also nuclear or dual-capable hypersonic capabilities.
The US needs to develop hypersonic weapons in order “to allow us to match what our adversaries are doing,” Michael Griffin, a former undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, argued last year.
The different motivations put forward by defense officials raise questions about whether specific military requirements are driving US development decisions — or if the main driver is to weaponize the technology now and figure out specific roles and missions later.
The Pentagon has also not offered a clear concept of operations for the deployment of the weapons or a detailed explanation for why alternative military capabilities are not adequate to meet mission requirements. “We do need to make sure we have an unambiguous, well understood ConOp as we go forward,” Air Combat Command head Gen. Mark Kelley said at the Air Force Association conference.
Other important details about the department’s plans for the weapons are yet to be determined, including the projected costs of the missile systems under development and production quantities.
Furthermore, the Defense Department appears to be paying less attention to the ways in which hypersonic weapons could lead to new conflict instabilities and contribute to a burgeoning arms race. Such risks include those emanating from target and warhead ambiguity, a reduction in response time, the potential ability to improve targeting of mobile missiles, arms racing, and the exacerbation of threats posed by other emerging technologies.
As former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy noted last year, the use of hypersonic weapons in conflict “can confuse people… And you could end up in an escalatory type of situation.”
There remain numerous questions concerning the rationale for, escalatory and instability risks of, costs of, and potential alternatives to hypersonic weapons that have thus far gone unasked or unanswered. In the new report, we suggest several recommended action items for Congress to enhance its oversight of the Pentagon’s acquisition plans and make better-informed funding decisions.
One suggested step is a rethinking of the Army’s hypersonic program, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW). The rationale for the program is arguably the weakest among current US hypersonic development programs. The program faces difficult challenges such as where to base the missiles, large projected costs, and is controversial within the Pentagon. Plus, the weapon’s range (at least 2,775 km), speed, and mode of launch (from ground-launchers) poses underexplored stability risks.
Lawmakers should also seek to hold a dialogue with the State Department on possible avenues for future arms control on hypersonic weapons. Already, experts have begun to explore various possible options ranging from confidence-building measures to bans or limits on certain types of hypersonic weapons. And the United States and Russia have previously expressed interest in bringing up hypersonic weapons as a topic in an established dialogue on strategic stability, which is an opportunity that should not go to waste.
It is time — in fact, past time — for Congress to demand answers about the Pentagon’s pursuit of hypersonic weapons capabilities before the military begins fielding the weapons in possibly great numbers and before the ability to mitigate stability risks becomes more difficult. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
29 Sep 21. DOD Leaders Address Bagram Departure, Noncombatant Evacuation Operation Timing. Following the U.S. departure from Afghanistan in August, some questioned the hand-over of Bagram Air Base — about 27 miles north of the capital city, Kabul — saying the move was ill-advised and had been a tactical mistake.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said maintaining a presence there would have been costly, and would not have helped the U.S. mission during the waning days of the 20-year war the U.S. waged in Afghanistan.
“Retaining Bagram would have required putting as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in harm’s way just to operate and defend it,” Austin told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing today on Capitol Hill. “It would have contributed little to the mission that we had been assigned, and that was to protect and defend the embassy which was some 30 miles away.”
Additionally, when the noncombatant evacuation operation, or NEO, began, Bagram’s distance from Kabul would have offered little help.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said it was expected that it would be Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, not Bagram, that would play a central part in any NEO.
“Most of the people that were required to be in an NEO were going to come out of Kabul … HKIA was going to be the center of gravity for any NEO,” Milley said, saying the U.S. didn’t have the forces to defend both airports.
Staying at Bagram to continue counterterrorism operations there would also not have been advisable, Austin said.
“[That] meant staying at war in Afghanistan, something that the president made clear that he would not do,” Austin said.
The noncombatant evacuation operation to get American civilians, Afghan citizens with special immigrant visa applications underway and at-risk Afghans out of Afghanistan, began Aug. 14 — just 17 days before the U.S. military planned to be completely out of the country. Austin said the decision on when to start the NEO came from the State Department and that a variety of factors figured into when an NEO should begin.
“On the issue of why we didn’t bring out civilians and as SIVs sooner … the call on how to do that and when to do it is really a State Department call,” Austin said. “Their concerns, rightfully, were that … they were being cautioned by the Ghani administration that if they withdrew American citizens and SIV applicants at a pace that was too fast, it would cause a collapse of the government that we were trying to prevent. And so I think that went into the calculus.”
Despite what some consider to have been a delayed start for noncombatant evacuation operations, Milley said the operation was a success, being the largest air evacuation in history, which got 124,000 individuals out of the country.
Austin said work continues now to get Americans out of Afghanistan.
“We’re not finished and we’ll make sure that we stay focused on this to get out every American citizen that wants to leave and has the right credentials to be able to leave,” he said.
While the U.S. is now out of Afghanistan, it still has the ability to conduct over-the-horizon operations to deal with any threats to the homeland, which includes assets and target analysis that comes from outside of the country in which an operation occurs, Austin said.
“These are effective and fairly common operations,” he said. “Just days ago we conducted one such strike in Syria, eliminating a senior Al Qaeda figure. Over the horizon operations are difficult, but absolutely possible. And the intelligence that supports them comes from a variety of sources, and not just U.S. boots on the ground.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Sep 21. Taliban Remains Dangerous, Harbors al-Qaida, Joint Chiefs Chairman Says. The Taliban remains dangerous and is harboring al-Qaida, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley told the panel that when President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January the situation in Afghanistan was at a stalemate with roughly 10,000 U.S. and NATO troops in the nation. The Trump administration had negotiated the Doha Agreement with the Taliban in Qatar in February 2020. Under the agreement, the United States would begin to withdraw its forces contingent upon the Taliban meeting certain conditions. This would lead to a political agreement between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. “There were seven conditions [in the Doha Agreement] applicable to the Taliban and eight conditions applicable to the United States,” Milley said. “While the Taliban did not attack U.S. forces, which was one of the conditions, it failed to fully honor any, any other condition under the Doha Agreement.
“And perhaps most importantly for U.S. national security, the Taliban has never renounced al-Qaida, or broke its affiliation with them.”
Milley said the United States adhered to every condition.
In the fall of 2020, Milley’s analysis of the situation in Afghanistan was that an accelerated withdrawal would risk “losing the substantial gains made in Afghanistan, damaging U.S. worldwide credibility, and could precipitate a general collapse of the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] and the Afghan government, resulting in a complete Taliban takeover or general Civil War,” he told the Senate panel. “That was a year ago.”
Then-President Donald J. Trump ordered an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan to end by Jan. 15, 2021. That order was subsequently rescinded by Trump before leaving office, and one of the Biden Administration’s first duties was to examine the situation in the country and recommend a course moving forward.
Milley participated in a rigorous interagency review of the situation in Afghanistan in February, March and April. The advice and recommendations were given serious consideration by the administration, he said. “We provided a broad range of options and our assessment of their potential outcomes,” he said. “On 14 April, President [Biden] announced his decision, and the U.S. military received a change of mission to retrograde all U.S. military forces.”
The United States would keep a small unit to protect the embassy in Kabul and ensure access to the airport.
“It is clear, it is obvious, that the war in Afghanistan did not end on the terms we wanted, with the Taliban now in power in Kabul,” Milley said. “Although the [non-combatant evacuation operation] was unprecedented as the largest air evacuation in history evacuating 124,000 people, it came at an incredible cost of 11 Marines, one soldier and a Navy corpsman. Those 13 gave their lives so that people they never met, will have an opportunity to live in freedom. And we must remember that the Taliban was — and remains — a terrorist organization. And they still have not broken ties with al-Qaida.”
Milley said he doesn’t know if the group can consolidate power in the country or if the country will further fracture into civil war. “But we must continue to protect the United States of America and its people from terrorist attacks coming from Afghanistan. A reconstituted al-Qaida or [Islamic State] with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility.” (Source: US DoD)
28 Sep 21. Lessons Learned From Afghanistan: Gen. Mark Milley. The anguish of dealing with the aftermath of the end of the Afghan war came through clearly in some of Defense Secretary Austin’s testimony. “Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions, an army, an air force, the police force, and government ministries? We built a state, Mr. Chairman, but we could not forge a nation.” The Afghan war’s end. It’s harmed relations with America’s allies, who wonder if they can rely on the US as much as they want to. It’s delighted China, which trumpets how America had to withdraw from Afghanistan. It’s given tremendous heartache to veterans, who lost friends and gave so much of themselves to serve. It’s driven Afghans who believed in a democratic state where women could be treated as free human beings to risk their lives to flee to other lands. Few would disagree that America’s attempt to build a new Afghanistan ended badly, so what lessons did America’s top military leaders learn? What will shape Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley’s — and their successors’ — actions and policies over their terms?
This story is not going to deal with the partisan attacks and defenses that took up much of today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, since readers can find those elsewhere. It’s time to look ahead to the next conflict, because it will occur sooner than anyone wants it to.
Lesson One: Don’t Americanize The War
Apart from the tactical lessons learned about executing airlifts, there are much larger lessons — “a series of strategic lessons to be learned” — Milley made clear to the SASC’s six hour hearing today. Perhaps top of the list: Don’t Americanize the war.
“We learned that in El Salvador and in Colombia, for example,” he said. “We assist and help other countries armies fight in insurgencies, and they were quite effective. But it was their country, their army that bore the burden of all the fighting, and we had very, very few advisors and that was quite effective. Now, every country is different. Every war is different and has to be evaluated on its own merits, but I think those are some key points that are worth thinking about.”
Lesson Two: ‘You’ve Got To Be There’
The United States must also have good visibility into the forces with which it’s working, something Milley hinted at the SASC may have been an important reason the US missed warning signs of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military.
“I think in the case of working with other countries armies, it’s important to have advisors with those units so you can do a holistic assessment of things that are very difficult to measure — the morale factor, leadership, will. I think that’s one key aspect,” Milley said.
America withdrew its advisors from the Afghan army three years ago, Milley noted. While he wouldn’t say categorically that the US missed the warning signs because of their absence, he did say it was a “key factor.”
“When you pull the advisors out of the units, you can never, you no longer can assess things like leadership and well, we can count the planes, trucks and automobiles and cars and machine guns everything else — we can count those from space and all the other kind of Intel assets. But you can’t measure the human heart with a machine. You’ve got to be there,” Milley told the committee.
In his testimony, Austin put some meat on the bones of Milley’s diagnosis that the US lost transparency into the morale of Afghan government forces.
“The fact that the Afghan army that we and our partners trained simply melted away, in many cases without firing a shot — to my surprise, and it would be dishonest to claim otherwise — we need to consider some uncomfortable truth that we didn’t fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in the senior ranks, that we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by (Afghan) President Ghani of his commanders,” Austin said grimly.
Lesson Three: Train For The Culture
In addition to poor leadership and corruption, Milley pointed to a classic mistake governments often make when dealing with other governments and cultures.
“I think that one error we may have made over time was we made them too dependent on technology, too dependent on our capabilities. We didn’t take in the cultural aspects perhaps as much as we should have, and we mirror imaged,” he said. For example, contractors were crucial to keeping the Afghan forces moving and fighting. When they were withdrawn, it accelerated the collapse of the tech-dependent Afghan army.
Lesson Four: Watch Conditions On The Ground, Not A Calendar
Finally, Milley reminded his political overseers of a lesson almost every member of the military knows all too well.
“As a matter of professional advice I would advise any leader: don’t put dates certain or end dates; make things conditions-based,” he told the SASC. “That is how I’ve been trained over many, many years.”
President Trump’s Doha agreement with the Taliban committed the US to a May 1, 2021 withdrawal. It also placed conditions on both sides. However, Milley and Austin testified that the Taliban did not adhere to any of their conditions except, largely, the one barring them from attacking American forces. President Biden repeated the error and said the US would withdraw by September 11. And Kabul fell on Aug. 15.
But with all the lessons Milley suggested the US had learned in the aftermath of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, it was Austin’s sometimes anguished testimony that emphasized that the US is still beset with hard questions about its failures after 20 years.
“Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions in their army and air force, the police force, and government ministries?” he said. “We built a state, Mr. Chairman, but we could not forge a nation.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 Sep 21. Austin, Milley: No Debate About Courage, Commitment of Americans Who Served in Afghanistan. How the Afghanistan conflict ended must not obscure the pride Americans should have for the men and women who fought there, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
“As a veteran of the war, I am personally reckoning with all of that,” the secretary said during testimony about the war’s last days and the evacuation of 124,000 people from Kabul. “But I hope … that we do not allow a debate about how this war ended to cloud our pride in the way that our people fought it.”
More than 800,000 service members deployed to Afghanistan over the course of the 20 year war. “They prevented another 9/11, they showed extraordinary courage and compassion in the war’s last days, and they made lasting progress in Afghanistan that the Taliban will find difficult to reverse and that the international community should work hard to preserve,” Austin said.
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida used Afghanistan as a launching pad for its attacks on America on 9/11 that killed 3,000. American forces moved into the country in October 2001, drove the Taliban from power and denied al-Qaida sanctuary.
“Most importantly, 2,461 of us gave the ultimate sacrifice, while 20,698 of us were wounded in action, and countless others of us suffer invisible wounds of war,” Milley said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that our efforts prevented an attack on the homeland from Afghanistan, which was our core original mission, and everyone that served in that war should be proud. Your service mattered.”
Austin told the senators that it is well and good that they discuss and debate the decisions and policies that led to the turning points in the war. “We can debate the decisions over 20 years that led us to this point,” he said. “But one thing not open to debate is the courage and compassion of our service members, who — along with their families — served and sacrificed to ensure that our homeland would never again be attacked the way it was on September 11, 2001.” (Source: US DoD)
28 Sep 21. Austin Gives Senate Hard Truths of Lessons From Afghanistan.
“We helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee today, encapsulating America’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan.
Austin gave context to U.S. decisions in Afghanistan and also detailed U.S. actions during the fall of Afghanistan.
The United States spent bns outfitting and training Afghan security forces over the 20 year conflict. “The fact that the Afghan army [that] we and our partners trained simply melted away — in many cases without firing a shot — took us all by surprise,” Austin said. “It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”
The secretary said American leaders need to consider some uncomfortable truths in regards to the Afghan military. The United States underestimated the damage that corruption in the Afghan military’s senior ranks played in building the security forces. “We did not grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by [former Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani of his commanders,” Austin said.
In addition, the Doha Agreement — negotiated between the United States and the Taliban — had a negative effect on Afghan government forces, he said. “We did not anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that Taliban commanders struck with local leaders in the wake of the Doha Agreement, that the Doha Agreement itself had a demoralizing effect on Afghan soldiers, and that we failed to fully grasp that there was only so much for which — and for whom — many of the Afghan forces would fight,” Austin said.
Over 20 years, tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police died in battle. Many fought bravely, he said. “But, in the end, we couldn’t provide them with the will to win. At least not all of them,” the secretary said.
Austin also addressed questions that arose following the most successful mass, non-combatant airlift evacuation in history.
Austin also addressed questions raised in interviews on some 24-hour news channels that questioned why the U.S. didn’t use Bagram Airfield in the evacuation, why planning for the NEO effort didn’t start earlier, and why the U.S. forces didn’t stay longer to ensure all U.S. citizens were evacuated. Austin said planning for a non-combatant evacuation began early. The fact that U.S. troops were able to get to Kabul so quickly as the Taliban approached the capital is proof that planning had been done.
“By late April, two weeks after the president’s decision, military planners had crafted a number of evacuation scenarios,” Austin said. “In mid-May, I ordered Central Command to make preparations for a potential non-combatant evacuation operation. Two weeks later, I began pre-positioning forces in the region, to include three infantry battalions.”
By the time the State Department called for the NEO, forces from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 82nd Airborne were in the pipeline for deployment.
The first days at Hamid Karzai International Airport were chaotic with civilians storming onto the flightline trying to get aboard aircraft. But within 48 hours, our troops restored order, and the process began to take hold,” Austin said. “Our soldiers, airmen and Marines — in partnership with our allies, our partners and our State Department colleagues — secured the gates, took control of airport operations and set up a processing system for the tens of thousands of people they would be manifesting onto airplanes,” he said.
They exceeded all expectations. At the beginning, plans called for evacuating between 70,000-80,000 people. They evacuated more than 124,000 people. “On military aircraft alone, we flew more than 387 sorties, averaging nearly 23 per day,” Austin said. “At the height of this operation, an aircraft was taking off every 45 minutes. And not a single sortie was missed for maintenance, fuel or logistical problems. It was the largest airlift conducted in U.S. history, and it was executed in just 17 days.”
Austin said the circumstances in mid-August were particularly challenging with U.S. forces and the evacuees facing extreme heat, evacuating from a land-locked country without a functioning government, and an “active, credible and lethal terrorist threat.”
“In the span of just two days — from August 13th to 15th — we went from working alongside a democratically elected, long-time partner government to coordinating warily with a long-time enemy,” he said. “We operated in a deeply dangerous environment. It proved a lesson in pragmatism and professionalism.”
Retaining Bagram airfield as an evacuation point would not work. It would have required about 5,000 American service members to run and defend the base. In addition, it’s 30 miles from Kabul, — the main population center, so it wouldn’t have been an easy place for evacuees to reach.
Austin also spoke about over-the-horizon operations in Afghanistan. This refers to assets and target analysis that come from outside the country in which the operation occurs. “These are effective and fairly common operations,” he said, noting that just days ago the United States conducted an over-the-horizon strike against a senior al-Qaida figure in Syria.
“As for when we started evacuations, we offered input to the State Department’s decision, mindful of their concerns that moving too soon might actually cause the very collapse of the Afghan government that we all wanted to avoid and that moving too late would put our people and our operations at greater risk,” Austin said.
The same judgments apply for ending the NEO mission on August 31. “Extending beyond the end of August would have greatly imperiled our people and our mission,” he said. “The Taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on the first of September, and as you know, we faced grave and growing threats from ISIS-K. Staying longer than we did would have made it even more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees who we could get out.”
(Source: US DoD)
28 Sep 21. DOD Official Says Concept of Integrated Deterrence Is Call to Action. In a speech earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III called deterrence the cornerstone of defense to make sure U.S. adversaries know that the risk of aggression is out of line with any conceivable benefit, a key Defense Department official said today.
Gregory M. Kausner, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, was the keynote speaker at the Common Defense 2021 expo this morning.
“In describing a new vision of ‘integrated deterrence,’ he [Austin] said that while it still rests on the same logic, it now spans multiple realms,” Kausner said. “The right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities — all woven together and networked in a way that is credible, flexible and so formidable that it will give any adversary pause.”
That approach is multi-domain, spans numerous geographic areas of responsibility, is united with allies and partners, and is fortified by all instruments of national power, he said.
“For those of us in the acquisition and sustainment enterprise, the concept of integrated deterrence is a call to action,” Kausner said.
DOD must continue to evolve its policies, processes — and, most importantly, its culture — to ensure the United States and its network of allies and partners remain predominant across the 21st century battlespace, he said.
The purpose in DOD’s acquisition and sustainment is to enable the delivery and sustainment of secure, resilient and preeminent capabilities to the warfighter and international partners, Kausner emphasized.
As defense acquisition has evolved, the geopolitical landscape of today calls for an integrated suite of capabilities to field a lethal, resilient and rapidly adapting joint force, he said.
“Developing such capabilities should be guided by mission engineering — a means to achieve desired warfighting effects through scoped requirements, guided development, and informed investment — to directly link programs with the missions they must accomplish,” he explained.
“Put simply, the mission architecture is the business model for the conduct of operations,” he noted. Kausner also added that, as overarching mission architecture is illuminated, DOD is able to identify critical mission threads and the necessary end-to-end tasks.
Kausner said the acquisition enterprise must center the force of its considerable resources, ingenuity and expertise on the critical linkages that enable warfighters to complete the kill chain.
In recent years, DOD began that process with a comprehensive redesign of its acquisition policies. The result was the adaptive acquisition framework — one of the most transformational changes to defense acquisition in years, he said.
With six distinct pathways, Kausner said the framework empowers program teams to tailor their approaches to a specific capability, making DOD more agile and more disciplined in addressing acquisition challenges at the program level.
Kausner said that to ensure a ready workforce, DOD is putting in place a comprehensive talent management framework focused on streamlining certification requirements, expanding job-relevant credentialing opportunities, and providing a continuous learning model. It’s also adopting best-practices to optimize our performance.
Kausner said that DOD is also evolving into a data-centric enterprise, one that uses data at speed and scale for operational advantage and increased efficiency.
And while DOD is just scratching the surface, there’s an imperative to advance defense acquisition at the enterprise level, he said. A holistic approach to enterprise acquisition is necessary — one that integrates policies and processes at the micro level, but also aligns other key aspects of defense acquisition at the macro level, he explained.
Kausner said that to identify and address interdependencies and critical risks, DOD must broaden its assessments to include a portfolio of systems. The department is adopting integrated acquisition portfolio reviews to strengthen synchronization of warfighting concepts, requirements, technologies and program execution.
“We are in the midst of a rebalance from a program-centric approach to a portfolio-based perspective,” he said. “For example, instead of looking only at a specific munition, we’re more focused on how that system fits into the broader integrated air and missile defense capability portfolio,” he explained.
Such an outlook enables DOD to not only see all the dots, but to connect them to directly align decision making with operational needs, Kausner said.
“We can expect adversaries to challenge our logistics dominance from the homeland to the outer reaches of the battlespace,” he said, adding that cross-cutting portfolio reviews will highlight the impact of contested logistics by evaluating material shortages, munitions levels and fuel supply chains across a range of systems.
“Climate change will also continue to alter our operational environment,” he said. “Going forward, portfolio reviews will assess the efficacy of both our emerging programs and our supporting infrastructure in the face of shifting environments.”
Adopting a portfolio perspective will also enable a healthy, vibrant, and — most importantly — a viable defense industrial base now and into the future, Kausner said. (Source: US DoD)
27 Sep 21. New US Navy task group taps destroyers to focus on countering Russian undersea threat. The Navy is organizing East Coast destroyers to better protect the homeland from Russian threats — specifically those undersea — as part of a new initiative called Task Group Greyhound.
The task group will have Atlantic fleet destroyers focused on training in theater undersea warfare — and, importantly, able to respond to threats at the drop of a hat — according to Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic.
“Strategic defense of the homeland has entered a new era, and our key competitors have deployed, and continue to advance, a range of capabilities to hold the homeland at risk. …Task Group Greyhound extends our overmatch by evolving our [undersea warfare] expertise and utilizing those experts to lead the undersea fight,” McLane told reporters Monday.
“We’re going to be ready for when it is real and there is an out-of-area deployer that comes here — we’ll have two ships that are ready to go, and we’ll be ready to get underway at a moment’s notice,” McLane said.
The task group is currently composed of destroyers Thomas Hudner and Donald Cook, who were selected for the group given their significant experience with anti-submarine warfare during recent deployments, according to McLane.
The group will grow to include The Sullivans, which will replace Donald Cook when that DDG goes into maintenance, as well as Cole and Gravely next year to create a four-ship force that can have two ships ready for a mission on short notice.
Rear Adm. Brian Davies, commanding officer of Submarine Group 2 and deputy commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet, told reporters in the same call that this new group creates continuity between training in undersea warfare and operations: these destroyers and the aircraft they work with will be solely focused on undersea warfare training for months at a time, both in port and at sea, and they’ll also be expected to deploy to track an adversary sub if one is detected near American waters.
Operational commands like Submarine Group 2 based out of Norfolk, Va., will help create the most realistic training scenarios, sometimes just for one ship and sometimes community-wide theater undersea warfare events that include surface ships, submarines, P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and MH-60R Sea Hawks from helicopter maritime strike squadrons.
For example, the task group will capitalize on times when a submarine is going in or out of port and use the opportunity to test out various sub-hunting tactics. The Navy similarly uses transit time for carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups coming or going from their homeport to work on tactics-development through so-called fleet battle problems. This would use an individual attack sub coming or going and allow it to play an adversary submarine that other Navy assets can practice hunting.
“We take P-8s, HSM helicopter detachments onboard ships like Thomas Hudner here, and we use that opportunity to put them against a live submarine for training,” Davies said. The training will also span “all the way up to and including tactical development exercises and then … the real honest-to-goodness out-of-area deployer.”
Among those tactical development exercises is Black Widow, which McLane said will be among the events DDGs in the task group conduct.
Black Widow concluded its second iteration in August, and Davies previously told Navy Times that the tactics, techniques and procedures tested out during the exercise “really centered on finding an undersea threat that was very adept at using the environment and the topography to their advantage.”
Additionally, Task Group Greyhound will hold a symposium on a quarterly basis with undersea warfare experts, and it will use live-virtual-constructive training tools to rehearse larger theater undersea warfare scenarios with other assets throughout the fleet.
The objective of these rehearsal missions and academic training is to “practice like we’re going to play” and validate that what is being taught in the classrooms is effective in real scenarios, Davies said.
Prioritizing the mission
The Navy has acknowledged for several years now that Russians submarines are increasingly slipping through the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap and operating on this side of the Atlantic. That acknowledgement spurred the standup of U.S. 2nd Fleet, which was meant to coordinate anti-submarine warfare efforts across the Atlantic and in conjunction with the Italy-based U.S. 6th Fleet. It also spurred the standup of Submarine Group 2 that Davies leads — where he is dual-hatted as the deputy 2nd Fleet commander, raising the profile of sub-hunting missions to the fleet level.
McLane said Task Group Greyhound continues the standup of organizations meant to counter Russian subs near the homeland, with this organization being “the tactical arm of surface warfare to support this 24/7.”
(Source: Defense News)
28 Sep 21. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the US had ‘absolutely missed’ how quickly the Afghan government and military would collapse. Two top US military officials said they believed that a few thousand troops should have remained in Afghanistan and acknowledged other tactical and intelligence failings during the chaotic withdrawal of armed forces from the country. During testimony before the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday, Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Frank McKenzie, US commander of troops in the region, both made clear their personal views were at odds with the decision President Joe Biden took to withdraw all troops by his September 11 deadline. “My view is that 2,500 was an appropriate number to remain, and if we went below that number in fact we would probably witness a collapse in the Afghan government and in the Afghan military,” McKenzie said in testimony, in comments echoed by Milley. Neither divulged the advice they privately transmitted to Biden. In an August 18 interview with ABC News following the collapse of Kabul, Biden said “no one said that to me that I can recall” when challenged that his military advisers had recommended keeping a force presence of 2,500 troops. The Biden administration’s chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan triggered domestic and international backlash, as the Taliban returned to power while 13 US military troops and more than 100 Afghans were killed. Biden has defended his decision, blaming the Afghan national security forces for failing to fight and describing the evacuation of more than 120,000 people in a few days as an “extraordinary success”. Milley described the evacuation as a tactical success, but said the overall outcome of the war was a “strategic failure”. He also acknowledged that military commanders had not foreseen how quickly the Afghanistan government would crumble as troops were departing. “[W]e absolutely missed the rapid 11-day collapse of the Afghan military, the collapse of their government,” he said. Milley said it may have been wrong to seek to train and equip the Afghanistan army in what amounted to a “mirror-image” of the US military, which resulted in making the Afghan military “too dependent on technology . . . [and] our capabilities”. Recommended The Big Read The Biden doctrine: the US hunts for a new place in the world He added that withdrawing US advisers three years earlier also hampered the US’s ability to assess the wherewithal and morale of the Afghan national security forces. “You can’t measure the human heart with a machine; you got to be there,” he said. Milley also responded to criticism over two calls he made to tell his Chinese counterpart that he would warn them if the US was planning an attack during the waning days of the Trump administration, according to a new book, Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Milley acknowledged speaking to Woodward and other individuals writing books about the Trump administration. Critics argued that Milley’s calls to China had undermined the president and civilian control of the military. He said the two calls, on October 30 and January 8, were generated by “concerning intelligence” that indicated Beijing was worried the US was going to attack them, saying he was tasked to de-escalate. “I am certain that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese,” he told the Senate. “My job at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: ‘Stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you’.” (Source: FT.com)
28 Sep 21. House passes 2022 defense policy bill. The House passed a $768bn 2022 defense policy bill on a 316-113 vote late Thursday — authorizing a $24bn increase to topline spending over the Biden administration’s budget proposal — a move that potentially lessens debate conflict as the legislation moves forward. The bill’s passage came after the White House rebuffed several provisions that limited military services from divesting of legacy platforms and boasts significant policy changes including expanding the military draft to include all Americans, improvements to software acquisition, and cyber education for Defense Department personnel. The bill also includes an amendment introduced by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems, that seeks special immigrant status for science and technology workers deemed essential to national security innovation.
“The United States attracts and develops some of the brightest minds in the world,” Langevin said. “However, our constricted pathways to residency and citizenship drive this talent into the arms of our adversaries; so we face intense competition from other countries who offer large research grants and expedited citizenship to lure this talent away.”
Another amendment would create four critical technology security centers through competitive grants from the Department of Homeland Security to universities, federally funded research and development centers, or national laboratories. The centers would focus research in network technology, network industrial control systems, open source software, and federal critical software.
The Senate has yet to approve its version of the must-pass bill, which sets Defense Department policy priorities and authorizes spending limits. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill in July. Once the Senate passes its NDAA the two chambers will head to a conference to hammer out differences between the bills. (Source: Defense Systems)
27 Sep 21. Pentagon And Lockheed Martin Agree To F-35 Production Rebaseline. The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and the Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) industry team have agreed on an F-35 production rebaseline that ensures predictability and stability in the production process while recovering the aircraft shortfall realized over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this agreement, Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver 133-139 aircraft this year, 151-153 aircraft in 2022 and anticipates delivering 156 aircraft beginning in 2023 and for the foreseeable future. More than 700 F-35s have been delivered and are operating from 21 bases around the globe. More than 1,460 pilots and 11,025 maintainers have been trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed 430,000 cumulative flight hours.
20 Sep 21. Plans for bigger defense budget get boost after House authorization bill vote. House lawmakers on Thursday approved plans for a $740bn defense authorization bill that provides bns more in equipment purchases than the White House requested and all but assures steady growth in military spending next year.
The budget policy measure, which passed by a bipartisan 316 to 113 vote, includes a 2.7 percent pay raise for troops starting in January, sweeping changes to military sexual assault prosecutions, and language requiring women to register for the first time for a potential military draft.
It also contains several provisions related to Afghanistan, as lawmakers continue to attempt to address the messy military exit from that country.
But the most significant detail of the measure may be the inclusion of about $24bn in funding above what the White House requested.
That mirrors plans approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this summer, and marks a victory for Republican lawmakers who have said President Joe Biden’s proposed military budget was insufficient to counter threats like a growing Chinese military and worldwide terrorism.
House progressives and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., had argued for lower spending levels after years of big defense plus-ups under former President Donald Trump.
“What we have seen in our last two decades of war is exemplary of the type of waste that goes on,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “Not only are these tremendous costs, but also this explosion in [defense] spending leaves our public health priorities underfunded and militarizes every problem in our society.”
But ultimately, opposition from moderate Democrats and conservatives overcame those objections. The House voted along bipartisan lines to reject amendments from progressive Democrats to undo the $24bn boost (142-268) and to levy a broad 10 percent cut (86-332).
“Threats from near-peer rivals like China and Russia are not the only ones we face; Terrorists continue their plots to destroy our way of life,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee. “We must continue to take the fight to them anywhere and any time they threaten us. With strong investments in new capabilities and readiness, this bill enables our warfighters to do just that.”
In a statement earlier this week, White House officials offered support for the authorization bill, but vowed to continue “to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the nation.”
Officially, the level of defense spending won’t be set by Congress until appropriations measures are finalized later this year. But with Thursday’s House vote and key senators already backing the $740 bn spending level, support for that as the military top line appears certain.
Now lawmakers will wait for the Senate to advance its draft of the authorization bill (expected to happen next month) and try to finish negotiations on an inter-chamber compromise measure before the end of the year.
The defense policy bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed by Congress annually, setting spending priorities and defense policies for the coming fiscal year. It has passed into law for 60 consecutive years, making it the rare legislation that’s both reliable and bipartisan amid other Capitol Hill fights. (Source: Defense News)
22 Sep 21. General Wants ‘Manhattan Project’-Like Commitment to Next-Gen Fighter. The leader of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command would like to see more funding and a whole-of-nation approach to developing a sixth-generation jet fighter. Gen. Mark Kelly said Sept 22 that coming in second to an adversary in developing a follow-on to a fifth-generation fighter such as the F-35 joint strike fighter is a not a good spot to be.
“We do not want to be on the other side of coming in second in air superiority,” he told reporters in a briefing at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference.
Adversaries such as Russia and China are presumably working on sixth-gen fighters, as are U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom with its Tempest program, which is being done in partnership with Italy, Sweden and possibly Japan.
The U.S. Air Force is pursuing its secretive Next-Generation Air Dominance program, also known as NGAD, which is said to entail two or more models of aircraft in a family of systems. A year ago, former Air Force official Will Roper said a prototype of an NGAD platform had already flown.
But Kelly said he would like to see development “go faster.”
“I would like to have more of a sense of urgency and a whole-of-nation effort towards it,” he said, something akin to the Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear weapons during World War II.
He continued with the A-bomb comparison, saying developers in the Manhattan Project knew that coming in second “would be a really bad place to be.”
“We’re in the business of putting adversary airplanes in the dirt or scaring them so much so they bury themselves,” he said.
Assuming adversaries will eventually field their own next-gen aircraft, Kelly said he at least wanted a wide margin between the United States coming in first, and them trailing behind.
“Do I think we’re going to field it? Yes. Do I think we’re going to build it before our adversaries? Yes. Do I know we are going to build it before them? … I would like to sleep comfortably knowing we’ve got a really good margin,” he said.
When asked if he would like to see more funding, Kelly answered “yes.”
The military is pivoting to great power competition. The resources should follow, he added. “You will only pivot to great power competition as you pivot resources to great power capabilities. This is a great power capability.”
When asked how he would feel if an ally’s sixth-generation system, such as the United Kingdom’s Tempest, was fielded first, Kelly said that was something he hadn’t thought about much. The Tempest program is aiming to field its first aircraft in the mid-2030s. During a Sept. 21 meeting with reporters at the conference, U.S. Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, declined to say when the service plans to begin fielding NGAD systems, but said the program is “progressing per plan.”
“Coming in second to an ally is head and shoulders above coming in second to an adversary,” Kelly said. “But I would also say, if you ask [six] people their definition of a sixth-gen, you may get six answers.” (Source: glstrade.com/NDIA)
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