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30 Nov 21. With defense bill stalled, will lawmakers ‘ping pong’ it home? With hope of a normal legislative process almost gone, lawmakers are dusting off a nearly decade-old congressional playbook in the hopes of finding a way to get the annual defense authorization bill to the president’s desk before the end of December.
The move coincides with a building panic that Congress’ 60-year streak of passing the authorization bill may be in serious danger, and along with it hundreds of pay and policy provisions that are included in the massive measure.
Defense advocates warn that could be a disaster — not only for one of the last reliable examples of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill, but also for military and defense industry leaders, who would see new-start programs, project expansions and Pentagon reforms sidelined without the bill.
On Monday, Republicans in the Senate blocked a bid to speed passage of the authorization legislation early this week, arguing they have not had enough time in the full chamber to consider amendments.
Senate leaders have been working without success for the last two weeks to broker a deal on amendments. But even before that delay, the Senate was months behind its typical schedule for advancing its draft of the annual legislation.
Now, facing a year-end schedule jam-packed with deadlines, Senate and House Armed Services committees leaders are considering abandoning regular order — a formal and time consuming conference process, followed by chamber votes — to ensure the defense measure can be signed into law for a 61st straight year.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., hinted at the idea of an alternative process in floor remarks Monday night.
“We will have to do the NDAA, it will be done,” Reed said. “We’ll have to use procedures that are appropriate to get it done.”
Congressional sources said lawmakers are looking at following procedures used in 2013, the last time the process was this far behind and entering December. In that scenario, leaders from the two Armed Services committees would hold an informal conference and present Congress with a compromise bill, essentially a take-it-or-leave-it measure for the two chambers to consider.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., confirmed earlier this month that congressional leaders were discussing plans to “ping-pong” the bill between the chambers in order to get it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The House would send the compromise NDAA to the Senate, which the Senate could pass and send to the president — unless the Senate makes any changes. If the bill is amended, it would “ping-pong” back to the House.
No plans were set as of Tuesday, and the Senate is on track to vote again to advance the bill. “There are multiple paths to the finish line, and we are working on the NDAA and are optimistic about the options,” said an aide familiar with the deliberations.
When asked Tuesday if lawmakers plan to go outside the normal conference process, Reed said it’s possible.
“We’re looking back at things that have been done in the past when we’ve run into difficulties,” Reed said. “We’re looking at every possible route, and I think Republicans are concerned too. They want the bill to pass because this is a good bill.”
Reed said bipartisan talks to clear a path in The Senate were still underway and that regular order was still his goal.
”My attitude is it isn’t over until it’s over,” Reed told reporters.
With negotiations over amendments still playing out, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jim Inhofe, declined to confirm an alternative process is under discussion. (Source: Defense News)
29 Nov 21. DoD Concludes 2021 Global Posture Review. Following several months of analysis and close coordination across the U.S. government, the Department of Defense released the results of the Global Posture Review (GPR) today.
The conclusion of the review comes at a key inflection point following the end of operations in Afghanistan and ongoing development of the National Defense Strategy. Nested within the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the GPR assessed DoD’s posture across major regions outside the United States and developed near-term posture adjustments, posture planning guidance and analysis on long-term strategic issues.
Through these assessments, the GPR will help strengthen posture decision-making processes, improve DoD’s global response capability, and inform the draft of the next National Defense Strategy.
In the Indo-Pacific, the review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea. These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities; enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands; and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia, as announced in September. The GPR also informed Secretary Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously-rotational attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in the Republic of Korea, announced earlier this year.
In Europe, the GPR strengthens the U.S. combat-credible deterrent against Russian aggression and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively. Based on an initial GPR assessments and a recommendation from Secretary Austin, in February 2021 President Biden rescinded the 25,000 active duty force cap in Germany established by the previous administration.
Additionally, Secretary Austin announced in April that DoD would permanently station an Army Multi-Domain Task Force and a Theater Fires Command, a total of 500 Army personnel, in Germany.
In the Middle East, the GPR assessed the department’s approach toward Iran and the evolving counterterrorism requirements following the end of DoD operations in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Syria, DoD posture will continue to support the Defeat-ISIS campaign and building the capacity of partner forces. Looking ahead, the review directs DoD to conduct additional analysis on enduring posture requirements in the Middle East.
In Africa, analysis from the review is supporting several ongoing interagency reviews to ensure DoD has an appropriately-scoped posture to monitor threats from regional violent extremist organizations, support our diplomatic activities and enable our allies and partners.
Finally, in Central and South America and the Caribbean, the GPR reviewed the role of DoD posture in support of national security objectives, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-narcotics missions. DoD posture will continue to support U.S. Government efforts on the range of transnational challenges and partnership activities in the region.
The Department conducted the GPR with participation from Office of the Secretary of Defense components, the Military Departments, the Joint Staff, the Combatant Commands, the National Security Council staff, the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with close consultation with dozens of allies and partners worldwide(Source: US DoD)
29 Nov 21. Mission Partner Environment Cuts Decision Making, Kill Chain. Earlier this month in Suffolk, Virginia, the Joint Staff’s J-6 and members of the Defense Department’s cyber community — along with military representatives from the U.K., Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany and other partner nations — concluded an experiment to demonstrate the effectiveness of the department’s mission-partner environment and SABRE software.
SABRE is short for secret and below releasable environment. It’s a software tool to help DOD and it’s partners more easily and efficiently share information between the computer networks of the U.S., partner nations, and military services during combined and joint operations.
SABRE is the material solution to the mission-partner environment that will enable our partners … to share information, and for the U.S. to share information with them,” Cliff Fagert, the director of the Mission-Partner Capabilities Office, said.
“That can be anything as simple as sharing a document, as complex as combined fires or combined medevac information, or any type of mission application.”
Fagert said that while “partners” is typically understood to mean the militaries of foreign nations, it might also include other agencies of the U.S. federal government or even municipal law enforcement agencies, when needed.
Over the past 20 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has partnered with a multitude of foreign militaries in countless operations. Command and control of those operations often involves an array of computer networks brought along by each participating nation. Facilitating the movement of information among those disparate networks as part of executing those combined and joint operations has been a challenge. Simplifying those operations is the goal of the MPE and SABRE.
“SABRE allows us to come together much quicker, much more flexibly,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Copinger-Symes, the U.K. chief information officer and director for military digitization, said. “Critically, it takes the lessons from the last 20 years of campaigning where we were, frankly, too slow to be able to interoperate in fixed infrastructure. We’ve learned those lessons, and we’re now embedding them into SABRE so that we can plug-and-play together in a much more rapid, much more agile fashion as crises emerge, to deal with those crises and get back to competition.”
In past operations, the U.S. and partner nations brought their own computers and networks along with them — though due to both incompatibility and security issues, these networks could not be connected.
For some operators, conducting operations in such an environment might have meant fielding a call for an airstrike using one computer attached to one nation’s network, then manually typing information about that airstrike request into another nation’s computer on a different network.
Frederick Stanley, the lead for the coalition’s interoperability assurance and validation assessment within the Joint Staff’s J-6, explained the pace of information sharing during Operation Inherent Resolve in 2017.
“We did some initial analysis, and we identified through deliberate processing maps and analysis that with the current environment they had, which was not data-centric, you would have to manually move products between partners in the same community of interest, which took four to six hours per manual move of that product,” Stanley said. “It took approximately 10,000 hours to share those data products to execute … 100 targets a day at the height of that mission.”
The problem, he said, wasn’t with how the targeting process worked. It was an information-sharing problem that needed to be fixed.
“When we identify targets … all of our nations do intelligence collection on those targets. Because we had a poor ability to share information, we had multiple partners collecting the same intelligence information on top of one another, which means we weren’t utilizing our collection resources in the most efficient manner possible,” he said. “What that led to was target deconfliction challenges, it led to production of the air-tasking order that couldn’t be shared at the same level with all the same organizations, and it led to an inefficient targeting process … because network-centric security prevented us from being able to share those products quicker and faster.”
The clumsiness of operating that way and the amount of time it might take to move information among decision makers from different nations created delays in carrying out airstrikes and also in arriving at other kinds of decisions.
The DOD’s Mission Partner Environment will allow partner nations to use their own networks — which might not otherwise be compatible with each other — to connect to SABRE and seamlessly share information between them so that decisions can be made more quickly.
Ensuring that partner nations can communicate effectively is critical because future operations are not expected to be conducted by only one nation — but by a team of nations.
“There’s going to be no action in the future where we’re operating alone,” Maj. Gen. Robin Anderton-Brown, UK Strategic Command capability director, said. “We’re going to be operating with our partners and our allies. And the importance of sharing information is only going to get more acute. Going forward, the importance of information and data — and to be able to share that more seamlessly — is going to require greater standardization of how we approach it. And SABRE is a great initiative to drive that coherence and standardization across the nations.”
The DOD is now also focused on Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, which is, in part, an effort to connect together the sensors from all of the military services into one tactical network. JADC2 will play a big part in the MPE and SABRE.
“From a U.S. perspective, SABRE is really the linkage between our mission partners and our JADC2 environment,” Brig. Gen. Robert Parker, the deputy director for command, control, communications, and computers with the J-6, said. “When we think of the JADC2 framework, it’s not an either/or with MPE and SABRE, it’s one.”
Parker said adversary nations are moving quickly and are agile. Technology is changing quickly, as well; for the U.S. and its allies to remain competitive, they must also be agile and move more quickly.
“When we think of this, this isn’t about just one ally, one partner, one specific environment,” Parker said. “The future has to be a persistent, connected, mission-partner environment, enabled by SABRE, that really allows us the flexibility necessary to respond to the knowns and unknowns that the future joint warfighting environment will present to us.”
On the ground in Suffolk, a pair of tents set up on a parking lot there mimicked — to a small scale — the kind of command and control element that might be present in any combined operation around the globe.
Inside the tents, laptops were set up that could connect to SABRE. Military officers from multiple U.S. ally and partner nations were there to conduct simulated operations using SABRE and to provide feedback on how using it was different from how they’ve worked in the past as part of a coalition.
Swedish Navy Col. Olle Mobergh, a liaison officer from the Swedish armed forces to the Joint Staff’s J-6, was one of the officers who worked with SABRE and the MPE. He said in using the system he saw value in it immediately.
” gives us the benefit of each nation being able to use their national systems,” Mobergh said. “You don’t have to buy a specific gadget to interconnect. It’s all done virtually in a computer system. We can plug in the Swedish system, having the right data format, and the right way of compiling information, and we can then share our information to whatever level we are entitled to to whoever is supposed to receive it.”
Mobergh also pointed to an important feature of the MPE and SABRE — “data-centricity” versus network-centricity.
“We should invest in the continuation of implementing this technology and also look into policies because that’s where I think we need to do the most work … writing our policies so that information is eligible to be shared on different levels,” he said. “Because today, we write policies for specific systems for specific tasks — and that’s not the future.”
On today’s military networks, users are authenticated into a system. Their access and clearance is first verified, and then they are given access to an entire network in which to roam — and on which they can, with few exceptions, view all the data housed there. This is a network-centric approach. To let a visitor from another nation view a series of files that are housed on such a network, that user would need to be cleared for access to the entire network — and that can’t always happen.
SABRE and the MPE aim to do away with that and instead implement a data-centric environment. In such a system, all users are cleared for access to the same network — but the data stored there has been tagged with information pertaining to those with permission to access it. Many users may browse such a network, but they will only be able to see or modify information that has been tagged in a way that makes it available to them, based on their individual access level.
Army Lt. Col. Eric Tapp, the Centcom data centricity lead and joint test director, said implementing data-centricity for SABRE within DOD’s enterprise-level MPE and Centcom’s own Centcom partner environment will be a challenge for users.
Those users will need to think differently about how they tag data when they’re planning to share it with partners through SABRE and the MPE.
“We’re going to be asking a lot of our users in the future,” Tapp said. “They’ve got to think differently about how they create information and how they share information. This is a true paradigm shift from what they’re used to today … There’s a lot you need to be aware of, but there are not going to be that many additional steps for you to effectively share and greatly increase the speed at which you can share amongst your partners.”
Spotlight: Engineering in the DOD While the DOD is developing the enterprise-level MPE with SABRE as the material solution, Centcom has developed its own compatible CPE — or Centcom partner environment. The CPE is expected to roll out in January.
The DOD has been working on the MPE and SABRE for about two years now, Fegert said, and it’s just about ready to be released. It’s expected to be fielded to the first combatant command sometime in late fiscal year 2022.
Fegert said recommendations for which combatant command would receive the MPE first have been made. Once it is fielded to that command, they’ll begin rolling it out to other combatant commands, as well.
“What we intend on doing is, as we progress with command one, do kind of a rolling rollout to the rest of the combatant commands,” he said. “It’s not get one command all up and running and then go to the next one. It’s get one going, take the lessons learned, then go to the next one, go to the next one, go to the next one.”
Army Lt. Col. Matthew Hicks, the Centcom engineering innovation branch chief and the technical lead for the Centcom’s CPE, said the data-centric capability of the MPE and Centcom’s own CPE will be a benefit for service members and for the sharing of information between partner nations and between military services.
“For a sailor who’s on a ship in the future, as we move towards this data centricity concept, they’re going to be able to function on a single network,” Hicks said. “As they deploy as part of Centcom operations into the Gulf, they will stay on that network and continue to operate on it as they transition into the Pacific in support of Indo-Pacom operations. They won’t need to pull hard drives; they won’t need to be able to change networks. Globally, they will be able to stay on a single U.S. mission-partner environment regardless of where they deploy to, where they practice, where they train, where they execute the mission.”
Most critically, implementation of the MPE and SABRE will mean that decisions, which are critical to service members, will come more quickly with less delay. And that can save lives.
“This will do two things with respect to any type of operation, but particularly combat operations,” said Fegert. “It will shorten the time zone. And as we go against near-peer, high-end enemies, time, nanoseconds are going to be critical. And it will make it much easier for not just our sailors, soldier, airman, Marine and guardians, but our partners’ sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines and guardians to engage in a meaningful manner to deter, defend, and, if we have to, defeat so that the U.S. can retain its national sovereignty along with our partners. This is one of the things in 36 or 37 years, I’m actually proud to deliver — this is a game changer.” (Source: US DoD)
29 Nov 21. Biden Approves Global Posture Review Recommendations. President Joe Biden has accepted the recommendations formed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the global posture review, Mara Karlin, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, announced today. While there are changes in the global footprint, the main benefit from the review is it “will inform our approach to the national defense strategy,” Karlin said during a Pentagon news conference. The global posture review was guided by President Joe Biden’s interim national security strategy released earlier this year.
“That guidance asserts that the United States will lead with diplomacy first, revitalize our unmatched network of allies and partners and make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and responsible use of our military,” Karlin said. “Nested within this guidance, the global posture review assesses DOD overseas forces and footprint along with the framework and processes that govern our posture decision making.”
The main outcome of the review is the return to normal of determining military posture around the world and tying that to America’s strategic alignment, an official speaking on background earlier in the day said. “The GPR has strengthened our decision making processes by deliberately connecting strategic priorities, global trade-offs, force readiness and modernization, interagency coordination and allied and partner coordination to global posture planning and decisions,” the official said.
It is no surprise that the Indo-Pacific is the priority region for the review, given the secretary’s focus on China as America’s pacing challenge. The review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea, Karlin said.
These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities, enhancing infrastructure in Guam and Australia and prioritizing military construction across the Pacific Islands. They also include new U.S. rotational aircraft deployments and logistics cooperation in Australia, which DOD announced in September.
The review also approved the stationing of a previously rotational attack helicopter squadron and an artillery division headquarters in the Republic of Korea.
More initiatives are forthcoming in the region, but these require more discussions among the allies and remain classified, Karlin said.
In Europe, the review looks to strengthen the U.S. combat deterrent against Russia, and enable NATO forces to operate more effectively, she said. DOD has already instituted a couple of recommendations including lifting the 25,000-man cap on active duty troops in Germany imposed by the previous administration and the decision to permanently base a multi-domain task force and theater fires command — a total of 500 U.S. Army personnel — in Wiesbaden, Germany. DOD will also retain seven sites previously designated for return to Germany and Belgium under the European infrastructure consolidation plan. The review identified additional capabilities that will enhance U.S. deterrence posture in Europe, and these will be discussed with allies in the near future, Karlin said.
“Again, there have already been some posture review changes including the redeployment of critically strained missile defense capabilities, and reallocation of certain maritime assets back to Europe and the Indo-Pacific. In Iraq and Syria, the review indicates that DOD posture will continue to support the defeated Islamic State campaign and build the capacity of partner forces, Karlin said.
“Looking ahead, the global posture review directs the department to conduct an additional analysis on enduring posture requirements in the Middle East,” she said. “As Secretary Austin noted … we have global responsibilities and must ensure the readiness and modernization of our forces. These considerations require us to make continuous changes to our Middle East posture, but we always have the capability to rapidly deploy forces to the region based on the threat environment.”
In considering forces in Africa, analysis from the review supports several ongoing interagency reviews to ensure DOD has an appropriately scoped posture to monitor threats from regional violent extremist organizations, support American diplomatic activities and enable allies and partners, according to the official.
Finally, in Central and South America and the Caribbean, the review looks at DOD posture in support of national security objectives, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counterdrug missions. “The GPR directs that DOD posture continue to support U.S. government efforts on the range of transnational challenges and to add to defense partnership activities in the region,” the official said.
The Global Posture Review has been a whole-of-government effort and includes input from allies and partners worldwide. President Biden ordered the review on February 4. He tasked Austin to assess alignment of overseas DOD posture with his national security guidance. Austin led the review with participation and guidance from the National Security Council, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (Source: US DoD)
29 Nov 21. Pentagon weighing reorganization of AI, data offices. The Defense Digital Service (DDS), the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) and the office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) would all report up to a new individual, tentatively named the Chief Data & AI Officer. In an effort to streamline processes and create a cohesive approach to the use of artificial intelligence and data, the Pentagon is considering a reorganization of three key technological offices, multiple sources tell Breaking Defense. Under the proposed plan, the three offices in question — the Defense Digital Service (DDS), the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) and the office of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) — would remain largely independent, but would all report up to a new individual, tentatively named the Chief Data & AI Officer. Proponents of the move argue it will give a clearer reporting structure for three offices that were stood up with great fanfare but have yet to deliver expected results. Having someone in charge of oversight for the three teams, as opposed to the current structure where DDS and JAIC report directly to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks while the CDO reports to the Chief Information Officer, should also provide a more cohesive understanding of overlapping work. But people with knowledge of the proposed plan also warned that doing so could cause the offices to lose their independent voices, seen as particularly crucial for DDS, which famously fashioned itself the “Rebel Alliance” operating inside the Death Star of the Pentagon. More importantly, all those contacted by Breaking Defense agreed the new leader needs to be the right person — someone who has real technical expertise but who will be able to maneuver the byzantine politics and bureaucracy of the department. While final details of the role, including the final title, are still being worked out, sources described the overall concept as effectively set. The effort is far enough along that Jim Mitre, a former Pentagon civilian who helped craft the 2018 National Defense Strategy and has spent the last three years with decision sciences firm Govini, has been brought on board to help organize the new office.
Asked about the move, a spokesman for Hicks declined to comment on “alleged internal planning deliberations.”
Getting a handle around data and finding ways to apply it to AI is central to the department’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort. In a July speech, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said AI is something the Pentagon “urgently needs to develop even further,” while Hicks has made AI and data issues a focus of her office.
“Hicks is right to focus on this topic and to make sure the department has an effective method to rapidly implement effective software and data practices at all levels,” said one former Pentagon official familiar with the issue. “It’s the right problem and needs senior leadership focus.”
However, “it’s not clear to me that adding an extra manager on top of three organizations with dissimilar missions is the way to achieve that. From the outside, this looks to be more about managing internal building dynamics,” the former official said. “My concern with grouping these three organizations under a new leader is that it’s the kind of thing the Pentagon usually does instead of designing a better organization.”
The three offices that would be impacted have all been stood up in the last six years as part of a broader push to help the Pentagon focus on crucial technologies — but each has its own distinct mission, which often overlaps with at least one existing legacy office.
DDS was created in 2016, at a time when the focus of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter was firmly aimed at Silicon Valley and bringing in tech expertise from outside the building. As a group, DDS purposefully branded itself as different from the department, with offices covered in Star Wars paraphernalia and a relaxed dress code. Its focus has been on high-leverage software projects that can have a big impact quickly and show others in the Pentagon what’s possible using commercial practices.
The JAIC, created in 2018, is supposed to be the focal point for driving the department’s AI strategy forward. While the focus around DoD use of AI tends to fall into the “killer robots” realm, the JAIC is in charge of building both strategy and backend support, most notably through the Joint Common Foundation. In essence, the office should be both trailblazer and champion for AI and machine learning across the joint force.
The CDO, stood up in 2018 and reorganized already in 2020, is the top official overseeing the management and use of the department’s data. The CDO provides policy guidance for how the services and combatant commands handle, store and manage their data, from warfighting to managing the fourth estate.
Expect members of Congress to keep a close eye on the move, as all three of the offices have had their congressional champions. Also expect industry — always tracking closely who has the money for new investments — to watch closely how the office reorganization shakes out. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
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