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09 Dec 21. Iran Top Priority for U.S., Israel. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met today with Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin “Benny” Gantz during a closed meeting at the Pentagon. A top priority for both defense leaders was a shared concern regarding the aggressive actions of the Iranian government.
“We share Israel’s deep concerns about the Iranian government’s destabilizing actions, including its support for terrorism and its missile program, and its alarming nuclear advances,” Austin said in advance of the meeting. “We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — this is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world.”
While Austin said diplomacy is the first tool that should be used to address threats posed by Iran, he said it is not the only tool the U.S. has at its disposal.
“The president has made clear that if the policy fails, we are prepared to turn to other options,” Austin said. “The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with all of our partners throughout the region, including Israel, first and foremost, to ensure that we’re working together to address Iranian threats. We will defend ourselves, we will defend our friends, and we will defend our interests.”
Austin also told the Israeli defense minister that the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s ability to continue to defend itself.
“As you know, the United States remains unwavering in its commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Austin said.
Included in that commitment, Austin said, is a strengthening of U.S./Israel bilateral defense cooperation, with an emphasis on air and missile defense.
Gantz reminded Austin that it is the government of Iran that Israel is at odds with — not the Iranian people.
“They are being held hostage by a tyrannical regime which violates their human rights,” Gantz said. “Iran is not just a threat to our physical security. Iran possesses a concrete threat to our way of life, and our shared values. In its aspirations to become a hegemon, Iran seeks to destroy all traces of freedom, human dignity, and peace in the Middle East and beyond.”
Iran’s nuclear program, Gantz said, is its means to achieving its goals both regionally and globally, and he counts on the United States to ensure it doesn’t advance.
“I am totally confident in the commitment of the administration of the United States as a global power to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” he said. “The international community, with the United States’ leadership, has an opportunity to act against Iran’s hegemonic aspirations, restore stability, and prevent the oppression of nations across the region.” (Source: US DoD)
08 Dec 21. Biden says U.S. will not put troops in Ukraine, as tensions with Russia ease. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that putting American troops on the ground in Ukraine to deter a potential Russian invasion was “not on the table,” as tension between Moscow and Washington eased slightly after a virtual summit this week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would send ideas to Washington within a week to follow up his talks with Biden on Tuesday about the Ukraine crisis.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden said he hoped there would be an announcement by Friday of high-level meetings with Russia and major NATO allies to discuss Moscow’s “concerns relative to NATO writ large” and the possibility of “bringing down the temperature along the eastern front.”
The United States has voiced growing unease about a Russian military buildup near Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that has tilted toward the West since 2014. Moscow denies aiming to invade Ukraine and instead warns of a creeping NATO expansion eastward.
Biden said the United States had a moral and legal obligation to defend NATO allies if they are attacked, but that obligation did not extend to Ukraine.
“That is not on the table,” Biden said when asked if U.S. troops would be used to stop a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well,” Biden said. “But the idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not … in the cards right now.”
He said he made it clear to Putin during their talks on Tuesday that there would be economic consequences like none before if Russia invades Ukraine, and that he is confident Putin got the message.
Biden warned Putin on Tuesday that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Moscow if it invaded, while Putin demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand to the east. read more
Neither side spoke of a breakthrough after the two-hour video call but agreed to keep talking about what the Kremlin called “this complex confrontational situation.”
“We agreed we will continue this discussion and we’ll do it in a substantive way. We will exchange our ideas in the very near future. Russia will draw up its ideas literally in the coming days, within a week we will give this to the U.S. side to consider,” Putin told reporters on Wednesday.
In his first public comments since the conversation, Putin said it was “provocative” to pose the question of whether Russia planned to attack Ukraine, and again accused Kyiv and NATO of threatening Russia’s security.
“We cannot fail to be concerned about the prospect of Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO, because this will undoubtedly be followed by the deployment there of military contingents, bases and weapons that threaten us,” he said.
It would be “criminal inaction” on Russia’s part not to respond, he said. “We are working on the assumption that our concerns, at least this time, will be heard.”
Biden is to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday to discuss the Russian military buildup and then convene a call with the leaders of the so-called Bucharest Nine group of Eastern European NATO allies, the White House said.
Russia, Ukraine and NATO have all stepped up military exercises as tensions have mounted in the past month.
Russian military aircraft were scrambled on Wednesday to escort French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets flying over the Black Sea, RIA news agency quoted the Defence Ministry as saying.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had handed a note of protest to the U.S. Embassy over “dangerous” flights of U.S. and NATO military planes near Russia’s borders.
Zelenskiy welcomed Biden’s role in trying to attain peace in eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine says more than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting with Russian-backed separatists. read more
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters the talks between Biden and Putin had served the purpose of “deterrence and de-escalation”. read more
A Russian Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying the United States might be included for the first time in a group of countries working to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
RIA quoted the official, Oleg Krasnitsky, as saying there was no reason why the United States should not join the so-called Normandy grouping – comprising Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – that has tried but so far failed to end the war.
“A lot depends on the position of Washington in settling the Ukrainian conflict. In principle, if the U.S. is really ready to make a contribution, we’ve always been open to America exercising its influence on Kyiv,” he was quoted as saying.
The remarks appeared to indicate that Moscow was open to an offer by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week for Washington to facilitate talks on the fighting.
09 Dec 21. US commander warns ‘robust range of military options’ exist to deter Iran. The US military commander for the Middle East has told the Financial Times he has a “very robust range of military options” to deter Iran, which has expanded its nuclear programme and ballistic missile arsenal. Amid growing warnings that time is running out to revive the 2015 nuclear accord that Tehran signed with world powers, the Biden administration is seeking to ratchet up pressure on Iran by floating potential US military responses and tightening enforcement of sanctions. “I think . . . Iran gravely underestimates us if they believe they’re going to be able to continue attacking and cause casualties in Iraq and Syria, and still be able to conduct nuclear negotiations with us without any effect,” General Frank McKenzie, Centcom commander, said in an interview. “[W]e retain an ability to reinforce very, very rapidly should it become necessary. And I think that fact’s not lost on [Iran].” McKenzie’s comments come as indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, brokered by the EU, resumed on Thursday in Vienna. Western nations have grown increasingly frustrated with what they view as Tehran’s intransigent approach to diplomatic efforts designed to save the nuclear deal. At US president Joe Biden’s direction, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan received a briefing by Pentagon leaders in October on a full set of military options available to ensure that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon, according to a person familiar with the matter. The briefing was previously reported by Reuters. In another sign of mounting US pressure, the state department is sending a delegation to the United Arab Emirates next week to warn banks and businesses in the Gulf state not to violate existing sanctions on Iran. The move was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
A senior administration official told the FT a US delegation will also visit South Korea and Japan to boost compliance with sanctions on Iran. McKenzie said diplomatic engagement was the “first and best track” to address Iran’s fast-developing nuclear programme and military capabilities, which he said spans ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and lethal drones. “Let me very clear: it’s our design and intent that diplomacy lead right now. That is the best path forward for everyone and Iran just needs to realise that,” he said. In 2018, former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord, which gave sanctions relief in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear programme. He then imposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic. Tehran responded by ramping up its nuclear activity and is now enriching uranium at its highest levels. Biden has promised the US will rejoin the deal and remove many sanctions if Tehran returns to full compliance with the accord. But he has also vowed Iran will “never get a nuclear weapon on my watch”. US officials have repeatedly warned “every option” is on the table. A senior administration official said given the outcome of the last round of talks and ongoing advancements in Iran’s nuclear facilities, the US was “laying the groundwork for another path entirely”. “If diplomacy cannot get on track soon and if Iran’s nuclear programme continues to accelerate, then we will have no choice to take additional measures to further restrict Iran’s revenue-producing sectors. We will not get into further specifics at this time,” the official said.
McKenzie described the threat from Iran as the region’s most significant and said recent overflights by US strategic bombers in combination with allied fighter jets from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain and Egypt was intended to send Tehran a message. “It assures your friends and it makes your enemies and those who might potentially be your enemies worry a little bit,” he said. Raisi replaced Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist and staunch supporter of the accord, and appointed new negotiators who toughened Tehran’s stance. Last week, the UK, France and Germany — the European signatories to the deal — accused Iran of reneging on compromises agreed at six earlier rounds of talks this year after Iranian negotiators submitted new proposals. Senior diplomats from the so-called E3 warned it was “unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic timeframe on the basis of Iranian drafts”. The regime is demanding a guarantee that no US administration would be able to unilaterally withdraw from the accord in the future and that all sanctions, not just those imposed by Trump, are lifted before it begins to reverse its nuclear gains. Experts say that while Iran’s concerns are understandable, they are unrealistic and it would be impossible for any US administration to make such guarantees. Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, on Thursday said he had “doubts that the west is ready to lift sanctions and instead unilaterally seeks to allay its own concerns”. He told Josep Borrell, the EU’s top foreign affairs official, in a telephone conversation that “today is time for action as there have been enough words over the past eight years”. The UAE, an important US partner, is the region’s dominant trade and finance hub, and many Iranian businesses operate in the neighbouring state. The Gulf state has also in recent months sought to improve its traditionally strained ties with Iran. Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s national security adviser, visited Tehran this week in the first official trip to the Islamic republic by a senior Emirati in almost a decade. (Source: FT.com)
08 Dec 21. Admiral Describes DOD’s Response to Global Threats, Challenges. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in consideration of his nomination to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Christopher Grady emphasized the challenges facing the United States and its allies. Adm. Grady said that competition in today’s extraordinarily complex and dynamic environment means that the United States and its allies face mounting challenges to the international rules-based order and national security in every domain, from the seabed to space to cyberspace, to the air and land domains.
Strategic competition, he said, does not just involve conventional or nuclear threats, but also attacks below the threshold of armed conflict that have changed the character of that competition.
“And so now more than ever, global integration is essential. And integrated deterrence in those multi-domains, leveraging all elements of national power across the whole of government and with our allies and partners is absolutely critical,” he said.
Grady noted four strengths of the Defense Department, which give it a competitive advantage:
America’s unrivaled industrial base, resulting from an innovative and open society;
Many allies and partners with whom all are stronger together;
Service members who are always resolute, lethal and ready at a moment’s notice;
Families who support the force.
“I firmly believe that family readiness directly contributes to operational readiness. I’ve always said a stronger family means a stronger fleet and after 37 years of service, I can confidently say that it is because of our families and their service and their sacrifice that we continue to be the most powerful military the world has ever known,” he said.
The admiral answered questions that focused on several different topics, one of which was about the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, which is chaired by the vice chairman which reviews and validates all warfighting capabilities needed to win on the battlefield.
The JROC is one of the most important organizations in the Pentagon, he said.
Decisions that are made at the JROC are threat- and risk-based, informed by disciplined and analytical data, he said, noting that he will continue that rigorous process if confirmed.
The admiral told lawmakers that the department must be postured to address challenges from China and Russia, particularly with their growing nuclear arsenals and modernization efforts.
“We need to have that responsive, flexible and survivable triad if we’re going to meet the challenges to nuclear peer competitors,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
08 Dec 21. Concept of Integrated Deterrence Will Be Key to National Defense Strategy, DOD Official Says. While the National Defense Strategy won’t be released until next year, it is no secret that the concept of integrated deterrence will play a large part in the document. Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, fleshed out the concept during the Defense One Outlook 2022 summit. He said the concept “will inform almost everything that we do.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has spoken about the concept since taking office last January. He calls it a new way of approaching deterrence.
Kahl discussed both sides of the concept: integration and deterrence. “In terms of integrated … we mean, integrated across domains, so conventional, nuclear, cyber, space, informational,” he said. ” integrated across theaters of competition and potential conflict integrated across the spectrum of conflict from high intensity warfare to the gray zone.”
The concept in this case also means integration of all instruments of national power. Most importantly it means being “integrated across our allies and partners, which are the real asymmetric advantage that the United States has over any other competitor or potential adversary,” Kahl said.
While deterrence has been the heart of U.S. defense policy since the Cold War, it has a different meaning as part of integrated deterrence, he said. “We need to think about deterrence differently given the existing security environment, and the potential scenarios for conflict that we’re trying to deter,” Kahl said. “We at Department of Defense need to have the capabilities and the concepts to deny the type of rapid fait accompli scenarios that we know potential adversaries are contemplating, so they can’t make a rapid lunge at our partners and allies before they believe the United States can show up.”
The United States must be able to deny those scenarios.
“We also have to make ourselves more resilient because frankly, we know that our adversaries have developed theories of victory, cognizant that they wouldn’t do particularly well in a protracted conflict with the United States,” he said. “So they don’t intend to fight a protracted conflict. Instead, they intend to blind us and deafen us and slow us down.”
Information operations against the United States may cause the United States to turn inward focused on domestic matters, he said. “We have to make our systems and our networks and our critical infrastructure much more resilient, so that they can ride out early attacks on those networks that are aimed to prevent us from moving forward to defend our allies,” he said. “Resilience will be a major theme.”
The nuclear deterrent remains important. “The secretary has spoken about the need to continue modernizing the nuclear triad to make sure that we have a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent as the ultimate backstop,” Kahl said. “But we’ll also develop additional capabilities.”
Finally, the whole alliance system is crucial to integrated deterrence. “We have to work alongside our allies and partners so that our adversaries know that they’re not just taking on the United States, they’re taking on a coalition of countries who are committed to upholding a rules-based international order,” Kahl said. (Source: US DoD)
08 Dec 21. Taiwan Has Proven Possibilities of Alternative Path to Chinese Communist Party, DOD Official Says. In stark contrast to deepening authoritarianism and oppression in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan has proven the possibilities of an alternative path to the Chinese Communist Party, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told a Senate panel today. Ely Ratner testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the future of U.S. policy in Taiwan.
“Unfortunately, although the PRC publicly advocates for peaceful unification with Taiwan, leaders in Beijing have never renounced the use of military aggression,” he told Senate members. “In fact, the is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay or deny third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf.”
The PRC threat to Taiwan, however, is not limited to invasion or blockade, he noted, adding the PLA is conducting a broader coercive campaign in the air and maritime domains around Taiwan. “These operations are destabilizing, intentionally provocative, and increase the likelihood of miscalculation,” Ratner said.
Nevertheless, he added, although the PLA’s actions are real and dangerous, and PLA modernization is unlikely to abate, the PRC can still be deterred through a combination of Taiwan’s own defenses, its partnership with the United States and growing support from like-minded democracies.
Through smart investments and key reforms, Taiwan can send a clear signal that its society and armed forces are committed and prepared to defend Taiwan, Ratner said, adding, “Without question, bolstering Taiwan self-defenses is an urgent task and an essential feature of deterrence.”
Tsai Ing-wen, the president of the Republic of China, has prioritized the development of asymmetric capabilities for Taiwan’s self-defense that are credible, resilient, mobile, distributed and cost-effective, he noted. “Asymmetric capabilities, however, are only one part of the deterrence equation. Taiwan must complement investments in these critical capabilities with equal focus on enhancing resilience, supporting civil-military integration and building a strategy that includes defense in depth.”
In addition to the provision of defense, arms and services to Taiwan, the Defense Department remains committed to maintaining the capacity of the United States to resist the resort to force or other forms of coercion that might jeopardize the security of the people on Taiwan, he said, noting, “and let me be clear that this is an absolute priority.”
The PRC is DOD’s pacing challenge and a Taiwan contingency is the pacing scenario, Ratner said. “We are modernizing our capabilities, updating U.S. force posture and developing new operational concepts accordingly. department’s efforts to deter PRC aggression and enhance Taiwan’s defenses will not be in isolation. Countries throughout the Indo-Pacific and beyond recognize the PRC aggression against Taiwan would have serious consequences for their own interests in our increasingly voicing concerns about PRC coercion and potential aggression against Taiwan.
“As evidenced by a number of recent multilateral operations and exercises, the department is focused on enhancing our regional cooperation as a means of bolstering deterrence,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
05 Dec 21. US should expect cyberattacks in any struggle for Taiwan. Several U.S. defense leaders said Saturday they are worried that a confrontation with China over Taiwan would lead to a wave of significant cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure that could disrupt day-to-day life.
“I’m particularly concerned about them in terms of what they might do in terms of cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure here in the United States,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum.
“There’s a real possibility that if we ever got into a conflict you could see attacks on our power grid, for example, or the transportation sector, which would have implications not only for how we would be able to project our military, but also have substantial consequences for the American public.”
The comments came amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, the democratically-ruled island which China considers its own territory. Over the past year, China has increased the frequency of incursions of its aircraft breaching Taiwan’s air defense buffer zone. It also follows news of a recent suspected Chinese hacking campaign against U.S. defense and tech companies.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., said here that he expects there would be a “major” attack that “would be disruptive to American society” and target critical assets like the reserve aviation and maritime fleets critical to ferrying troops and supplies.
“Looking at Taiwan, I don’t think it would be the traditional D-Day because that would take months to organize,” Reed said, adding that cyberwarfare would be a significant feature. “We have to build our defenses, which we’re trying, and be able to counteract.”
Speaking separately, Republican Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher argued Washington needs a way to better war-game and communicate the risk of a devastating cyber attack on U.S. infrastructure, if the U.S. confronts China over Taiwan. American water, power and transportation systems would be at risk.
“In such a confrontation, Las Vegas rules would not apply. What happens in the Taiwan Straits would not be confined there,” said Gallagher, who co-chaired the bipartisan, congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission.
“I just fear we’re not attacking this with a sense of urgency,” Gallagher said. “I feel like unless we change course, that we’re going to lose World War III before it begins.”
Also at the conference, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. is working to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, and he warned that China is edging toward its own nuclear triad of land, air and sea-launched intercontinental nuclear weapons.
While China’s made recent progress with cyber capabilities, nuclear weapons, space and hypersonic weapons, he said those moves should be met “with confidence and resolve — not panic and pessimism.” He added later, “We’re clear-eyed about the challenge that China presents, but China’s not 10 feet tall.”
Asked in a discussion with Fox News’ Bret Baier what keeps him up at night, Austin said it was adversaries’ space and cyber capabilities.
“Sometimes the next serious challenge can come from a place that you don’t expect,” he said. “I want to make sure we have sufficient capabilities in cyber and space that compliment the rest of the inventory.”
The defense forum, in its eighth year, brings together lawmakers and defense leaders for a day of discussions on national security strategy, priorities and challenges. (Source: Defense News)
08 Dec 21. On deterring Russia and China, Pentagon officials walk a fine line. Although Saturday’s Reagan National Defense Forum had no shortage of concerned statements from senior military officials about potential Russian or Chinese aggression, details — or even hints — on what the Pentagon might do to deter or respond were hard to find. The cautious tone reflects the delicate balance being struck by Pentagon officials as they try to signal potential adversaries shouldn’t act — while attempting not to inflame already high regional tensions, inadvertently provoke a reaction or back President Joe Biden into a corner.
“You heard the president say yesterday he’s looking at a number of initiatives [on how to assist Ukraine], so I won’t get out in front of my boss,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a discussion with Fox News journalist Bret Baier.
But some Republicans want to see more concrete moves or signals from the administration making it clear to Russia or China they will pay a price for aggressive actions.
“This is a moment in time where we need to show leadership,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said at a panel earlier that day. “We need to push back and say, ‘Putin, you can’t do this.’”
In his keynote address to attendees at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Austin previewed his concept of “integrated deterrence” to counter China, which aims to ensure the military works with the rest of the U.S. government, allies and partners to make “the folly and cost of aggression very clear.”
He stressed that the while U.S. will work with allies in the region to strengthen free and stable international systems based on rules and free from coercion, it doesn’t seek to build an “anti-China coalition” or “an Asian version of NATO.”
And he said his integrated deterrence concept would leverage American technology and operational concepts — including artificial intelligence and nanotechnology — to dissuade aggression.
Austin sought to lower the temperature surrounding the debate over China, emphasizing the strength of American industry and innovation.
“We’re clear-eyed about the challenge China presents,” Austin said. “But China’s not 10 feet tall. This is America.”
At the same time, Austin tried not to downplay the seriousness of the geopolitical situation. He said China’s efforts to rapidly develop military capability and actions in the region — such as October’s flight of 52 fighters and bombers toward Taiwan in a major show of force — are worrying. He said the Pentagon will continue to speak out against them.
“It looks a lot like rehearsals,” Austin acknowledged of the flights near Taiwan. He said the U.S. is “doing a lot to support Taiwan right now” and would look for ways to do more, but wouldn’t detail what that might mean.
With China and Russia attacking U.S. satellites with lasers and jamming devices, and even a widely-condemned Russian anti-satellite missile test that flung dangerous debris in orbit, space is becoming an increasingly contested environment, Austin said.
Asked about the potential for adversaries to go too far and cross the line into acts of war in space, Austin cautioned, “I’ve always found that it’s never a good idea to publish red lines.”
Pressed on what the U.S. might do if Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine, Austin declined to elaborate, saying that would be speculating.
The possibility of a looming Russian invasion of Ukraine also hung over the conference — but as with China, officials were hesitant to lay their cards on the table.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said on the panel with Ernst he is “very, very concerned” about intelligence reports indicating some 95,000 to 100,000 Russian soldiers are positioned on the border with Ukraine. McConville said he doesn’t know what Russia might do, but said that posture gives them “a lot of options” and could deal a blow to stability and security in Europe.
Austin said the U.S. would ensure Ukraine has what it needs to protect its sovereignty and has already provided weapons and non-lethal equipment. Previous military aid has included Javelin anti-tank weapons, mortars and others. Austin wouldn’t say if Ukrainian assistance would include advisers or additional equipment.
Ernst again urged the administration to be aggressive with Russia to deter them from taking actions like they did in Georgia and Crimea.
McConville said a “whole of government … and whole of Europe” effort would be needed to deter Russia, but deferred to more senior officials to lay out how that might happen.
“It’s peace through strength,” McConville said. “The way you deter is you impose some type of cost to make sure the cost is worth more than the benefit. It may be even a global effort, making sure people understand, you can’t just go into a sovereign country and conduct malign activities without having some type of cost.”
But throughout the conference, officials’ desire to find a middle ground was clear — as was the trickiness of that task.
“We’re in a competition with China, but we don’t have to be in a conflict,” Austin said. (Source: Defense News)
05 Dec 21. The defense secretary’s plan for China includes better tech, less panic. The Pentagon intends to work better with private industry to develop high-tech systems and to strengthen relations with allies in the Indo-Pacific region in order to maintain a competitive edge over China, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday. Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Austin said recent military activity and aggressive moves by China in the region, including near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, are disturbing. And while he said the U.S. is still committed to the longstanding “One China” policy, it is working to bolster Taiwan’s ability to defend itself.
“We’re clear eyed about the challenge that China presents. But China is not 10 feet tall. This is America,” said Austin. “America isn’t a country that fears competition. And we’re going to beat this one with confidence and resolve and not panic and pessimism.”
Austin’s speech comes as the U.S. struggles to counter China’s growing military and economic power, and its advancements in space, cyber and nuclear capabilities, while also avoiding direct conflict. Tensions between the two nations have spiked as China has dispatched an increasing number of fighter jets toward Taiwan, fueling worries about a possible invasion, even as the U.S. and its allies sail warships though the Taiwan Strait.
America’s “One China” policy recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
Asked whether China’s moves around Taiwan appear to be training for potential future military operations, Austin said it certainly “looks a lot like them exploring their true capabilities and, sure, that it looks a lot like rehearsing.” But, he added that the U.S. doesn’t want a conflict with China, so it’s important for the nations’ militaries to communicate more and be transparent.
Austin arrived in California after a visit to South Korea, his third trip to the Indo-Pacific region since taking over as defense chief earlier this year.
He told the defense forum that private companies struggle to get through Pentagon red tape when developing new technologies, and the department has to make it easier to break through the barriers. He said the Pentagon needs to get advances in unmanned systems, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence into the hands of U.S. forces more quickly.
Austin said the U.S. must also strengthen its network of allies and partners in the Pacific region.
“We’re not seeking an Asian version of NATO or trying to build an anti-China coalition. And we’re not asking countries to choose between the United States and China,” Austin said. “Instead, we’re working to advance an international system that is free and stable and open.”
The Pentagon just released its new global posture review, which made no immediate major changes in the global positioning of U.S. forces, but it did include plans to improve infrastructure in some parts of the Pacific, including Guam and Australia. In September the U.S. announced a new partnership with Australia and Britain to deepen security, diplomatic and defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. As part of that AUKUS partnership, Australia is to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, and the U.S. is to increase rotational force deployments to Australia. (Source: Defense News)
05 Dec 21. What Biden should tell Putin when it comes to Ukraine. When U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with Vladimir Putin Tuesday, Biden should emphasize sanctions and not American military might, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Saturday.
“You’re not going to deter him by trying to flex your muscles and convince him that we’re going to confront them militarily and defeat them in Eastern Europe,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in an interview at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum.
“You’re going to flex your muscles by showing [Putin] that we have a strong set of allies who are prepared to make them pay economically and enormously,” Smith said.
The comments came as Biden and Putin are set to speak on a video call, the Kremlin said. Tensions between their two counties have escalated over a Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border. The troops are seen as a sign of a potential invasion.
Biden will press U.S. concerns about Russian military activities on the border and “reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Saturday, confirming the planned call after first word came from Moscow.
Russia is more adamant than ever that the U.S. guarantees that Ukraine will not be admitted to the NATO military alliance. But NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said this past week that Russia has no say in expansion plans by other countries or the alliance. Several former U.S. and NATO diplomats say any such Russian demand to Biden would be a nonstarter.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin, during his call with Biden, would seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine. Biden tried to head off the demand in comments to reporters Friday before leaving for a weekend stay at Camp David.
“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.
U.S. intelligence officials, meanwhile, have determined that Russia has massed about 70,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and has begun planning for a possible invasion as soon as early next year, according to a Biden administration official who was not authorized to discuss that finding publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The risks for Putin of going through with such an invasion would be enormous.
U.S. officials and former American diplomats say while the Russian president is clearly laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in the past, and that sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to the Russian economy.
Smith argued that the threats of U.S. military aid to Ukraine and sanctions would prove effective deterrents. But threatening military action could provoke or create a pretext for Putin, who could decide to act first before western troops are deployed.
To boot, Smith argued the American people are not willing to go to war with Russia: “Putin knows that not only am I not, the American people aren’t.”
Some Republicans have voiced skepticism over Biden’s approach to the crisis.
The House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., needled Biden in a pair of statements, one demanding Ukraine get more U.S. arms and another demanding it get a long-delayed path into NATO.
“There is an old Leninist adage that Putin lives by. ‘Probe with bayonets; if you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, stop.’ The time to accelerate the flow of steel in the form of heavy weapons to Ukraine was weeks ago,” Rogers said. “Every day that you hesitate in doing so only invites further aggression. The world is watching, Mr. President.”
Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she wants Biden to tell Putin he will reverse his opposition to imposing sanctions on a Russian natural gas pipeline to Europe, Nordstream 2, and declare the U.S. “will defend the people of Ukraine.”
“We can do that one way or another, it doesn’t mean we have to engage our men and women in uniform, but we will certainly be there to support,” she said. (Source: Defense News)
07 Dec 21. Deterrence Ensures Great Power Competition Doesn’t Become War, Milley Says. The United States military is the strongest and most effective fighting force in the world today, but the Chinese Communist Party’s Peoples’ Liberation Army has made tremendous strides and has publicly stated it wants to equal or surpass the U.S. force by 2040, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today in Washington.
Army Gen. Mark Milley told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit that China wants to change the international rules-based architecture that has prevented a great power war since the end of World War II.
Spotlight: Commemorating World War IIHe told the group of CEOs that President Xi Jinping said in a speech that he wanted China to achieve parity with the United States regionally by 2027 and to reach parity or superiority with the U.S. military by 2040.
“That’s an aspiration,” Milley said to Gerald Seib, the Journal’s executive Washington editor. “We’re not going to stay still.”
China has grown its economy incredibly since 1979. The PLA has been a beneficiary of that growth. China has gone from a peasant-based, infantry army in 1979, “and they’ve developed a joint force in all of the domains in space and cyber in the traditional domains of land, sea and air,” Milley said. “And they’ve modernized it. So they now have a very, very good capability. They have good capacity.”
The Chinese are developing a blue-water Navy, they are building fifth generation aircraft, they are developing submarine forces and they have built aircraft carriers. “They’re moving and they’re developing their capabilities,” he said.
Milley said an academic term for China would be “a rising revisionist power.” China wants to revise the international rules-based order — primarily engineered by the United States and other Western powers in 1944-45.
“China doesn’t necessarily like all those rules, they don’t want to blow them up, so they’re not revolutionary,” the chairman said. “They don’t want to overturn them. But they do want to revise them to their own economic and political and diplomatic advantage. That presents a problem in geopolitics, it’s a big problem with a rising power, and a status quo power like the United States.”
All this is complicated by the changes going on in the world. The Cold War was a bipolar world. Today, the world is at least “tripolar” or maybe more, the general said. “We’re going into a world that is more complex, strategically, with a lot more variables,” he said. “And we’re entering into a world in which technology is advancing at a rate and a speed that has never been seen before in human history. So it’s much more complex, potentially more unstable. And it’s going to take a significant amount of very, very competent, mature leadership to navigate our way through.”
One complication is the character of war itself is changing. “The nature of war is immutable, or at least people think it is because it involves human beings. It involves friction and fear and violence, politics,” Milley said. “The character of war changes. Frequently, oftentimes, by technologies, sometimes by demographics or politics.”
The character of war deals with how to fight, the doctrine used, the weapons and the technologies employed. The last great shift in the character of war was between World War I and World War II with the introduction of mechanization, radar, radios, the airplane and more. “We’re living through … one of the most fundamental changes in the character of war in recorded history.”
The ability to see and sense today is unprecedented in human history. The number of electronic devices in the room he was speaking in was proof of that point. “A technologically advanced society can track exactly who you are, where you are, in exactly the room and so on, so forth,” he said. “Our ability to hit with long range precision fires is unprecedented. We can strike anywhere on the globe, at very, very refined levels of accuracy.”
Add to these capabilities artificial intelligence and it will revolutionize warfare. “The country, the nation state, or the entity that masters artificial intelligence and integrates it into military operations, combines it with robotics, combines it with the ability to sense and see, combines with the ability to hit, is going to have an extraordinary advantage, at least in the opening rounds of an armed conflict.”
It’s incumbent upon the United States to develop these capabilities rapidly, because that will provide a new type of deterrence.
Earlier in the day, Milley spoke with World War II veterans at the Sheraton Hotel just up the hill from the Pentagon. The veterans were in town to mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II.
The rules-based architecture has prevented great power war since 1945. Milley doesn’t mind competition with China or anyone else, but he does not want this to degenerate into a great power war. “What we want is to keep it a great power competition, because you don’t want great power war,” he said.
All war is horrific, he said, but a great power war is unbelievably destructive. He noted that between 1914 and 1945, 150 million people were killed in great power wars. “Think about that,” he said to the CEOs. “Some 26,000 Americans died from hitting the beaches at Normandy, to the liberation of Paris. That was just one campaign.”
“Great power war is horrible,” he reiterated. “We want to keep it a great power competition, and not get into great power war. And the way to do that is through deterrence. The way to do that is to have a very capable military, and demonstrate the will to use that if necessary to deter any opponent.” (Source: US DoD)
07 Dec 21. Terror Threat to U.S. Has Decreased, DOD Official Says. The terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland has been significantly degraded over the last 20 years due to sustained pressure on those groups worldwide, Milancy D. Harris, the Defense Department’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism, said. Testifying today before a House subcommittee on national security, Harris said the United States still faces a number of terrorist groups committed to targeting U.S. interests and personnel abroad. “These groups seek to take advantage of instability and ungoverned spaces, and have a new and evolving set of tools readily available,” she said.
Those tools include new technologies, agility in the information environment, and creativity in the circumvention of traditional financial systems, Harris said.
Terrorist groups also remain ideologically influential enough to motivate generations of new people to join them or conduct independent attacks on their behalf, she noted.
Often, the most effective counterterrorism approach is a mix of kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities and working with partners and allies, Harris said.
Collaborating with allies and partners on operations includes providing education and capacity-building programs to help them develop increased counterterrorism capabilities in critical regions. It also includes ensuring that security cooperation efforts are integrated with complementary U.S. government efforts, she said.
Speaking about Afghanistan, Harris said the department aims to ensure that nation will never again become a haven for terror groups.
“As we process the lessons from our time in Afghanistan and set the conditions for a new counterterrorism mission, we will seek to leverage intelligence, diplomacy and military capabilities to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorist organizations,” she said.
That approach will not be static, Harris said. The department will continue to adjust its capabilities and responses based on the terrorist threat in that region, she said.
The department will also rely on a whole-of-government approach to deepen security relationships in the region, she said.
DOD is also monitoring the evolving state of Afghanistan’s government and continues its commitment to the Afghan people, she said.
“Our withdrawal from Afghanistan does not diminish the department’s vigilance in our counterterrorism mission, and our full attention remains on protecting our homeland, citizens and interests from the continued threat that terrorism poses not only from Afghanistan, but around the world. We will never waver in that mission.” (Source: US DoD)
07 Dec 21. Austin Discusses China, Russia, American Public Survey on Military at Defense One Forum. As the United States’ pacing challenge, China is moving rapidly to modernize its military, navy, ground forces and space, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said he remains focused on all of their capabilities. During a discussion at Defense One’s Outlook 2022 symposium, Austin said it’s his job to defend the U.S. “And we don’t have a responsibility or concern to just defend against one thing; it’s the entire realm of capability that we’re focused on. will continue to make sure that we maintain a competitive edge in terms of technology and the ability to defend ourselves, and that’s what we’re going to stay focused on in the future.” The Defense Department needs industry to continue to support DOD, and Austin said he has every confidence that industry will rise to the occasion.
“What we’ve demonstrated over the years is our ability to bring together a warfighting capability that includes all of the domains and link that capability together in a way that’s just been dominating, and we’ll continue to do that in the future,” he said.
Integrated deterrence underpins DOD’s new National Defense Strategy, which the secretary said he would release early next year.
Integrated deterrence means beginning to network our capabilities in new and different ways, the secretary said. ” existing capabilities, but it also means we’re going to go after those capabilities that support the operational concepts that we think will be relevant in a future fight. It means that we’re going to use all the assets in the warfighting domains … including cyber and space and undersea capabilities. It also means we’re going to use every instrument of national power — and not just always the military. We’re going to, in all cases, lead with diplomacy. But, certainly, if diplomacy fails, we’ll be in a good position to win and win decisively no matter what the issue is.”
Just as important, Austin added, is that integrated deterrence also means DOD will leverage the capability to capacity that resonates with U.S. allies. “U.S. allies and partners have some tremendous capacity in a lot of cases, and I think we need to do more to work with them to develop what they have and to use what they have in more effective ways,” he said.
About Russian aggression toward Ukraine and Chinese aggression toward Taiwan, the secretary said the goal in both cases is for the United States to lead with diplomacy.
“We’re very much interested in a rules-based international order which respects the sovereign territory of every country,” he said. “We believe Ukraine has a right to defend and protect its sovereign territory,” and the United States supports Ukraine with materials and advisors so it has what it needs to defend itself, Austin added.
If Russia should attack Ukraine, Austin said it would be “a really bad move.”
The secretary said he believes there’s a chance to resolve differences in ways other than force. “We’ve expressed concern for a number of weeks because of the numbers of forces we see in the border region,” he said. “We also see destabilizing rhetoric in the area that’s very concerning. We see in the information space … some very unhelpful language. We’ve seen some cyber activities. recently he was concerned there was an effort to destabilize his administration. When you add all those things together, this looks very familiar … like a replay of 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine the first time.”
Similarly, the United States is supportive of Taiwan in the face of Chinese aggression, Austin noted. Based on what’s been outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act, Austin said DOD will continue to provide support so Taiwan can defend itself. There’s also bipartisan support for Taiwan, which the secretary said is important.
“We don’t want to see change in the status quo, especially, certainly a unilateral change in the status quo,” he said of Taiwan. “We think that all tensions in that area should be resolved diplomatically first,” and DOD has also made sure the small nation has what it needs to defend itself, like Ukraine.
Austin said the confidence Americans have in their military has dropped based on a recently released Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute survey, but he vowed to work to maintain the country’s confidence. “With an all-volunteer force, it’s very important that we have the trust and confidence of the American people,” Austin said of the survey. “So, we’re going to continue to … take a hard look at the survey and make sure we understand the numbers and the trends. We’ll do everything within our power to make sure that America maintains confidence in its military.”
However, the secretary said Americans don’t see the great work and sacrifices made by service members and their families. “If the average American could see what I see on a daily basis as I go out and interact with these young men and women in uniform, the sacrifices they make, and the great work they’re doing, and the tremendous sacrifices on the part of their families … it’s just amazing. I think what we have to do more of in the future is tell their stories and to highlight what they’re doing because they’re doing some incredible work in America. America should feel good about its military.” (Source: US DoD)
07 Dec 21. US Army, Marine Corps Leaders Discuss Deterring China’s Military Menace. Leaders of the Army and Marine Corps discussed the pacing military challenge from China and ways to counter the threat. Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, and Marine Corps commandant, Gen. David H. Berger, spoke Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Wormuth said what is particularly troubling with respect to China is the substantial progress it has made in terms of their cyber capabilities.
“I’m particularly concerned about what they might do in terms of cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure here in the United States,” said Wormuth. “I think there is a real possibility that if we ever got into a conflict, you could see attacks on our power grid or the transportation sector for example, which would have implications not only for how we would be able to project our military power out of the country, but also, very substantial consequences for the American public.”
The secretary mentioned that more work needs to be done with the private sector, which has 85% of DOD’s critical infrastructure to make the department more resilient.
Another concern is Taiwan. Wormuth feels the military needs to be investing in defensive capability like sea mines, anti-ship missiles, coastal defenses and working on the readiness of their forces.
Berger said that what worries him the most would be a military miscalculation by a couple of commanders in the region that spins out of control and into an unintended confrontation.
The commandant said that China has been expanding their coercive activities in the South China Sea, and they’re not slowing down. Deterrence of China is more than just the prevention of a hot war. It’s also protecting America’s national interests and providing free and open access in the air and sea for allies and partners.
Spotlight: Focus on Indo-Pacific
Wormuth said that in addition to the air and sea, the ground components in the Indo-Pacific region are vitally important.
“One of the key roles that the Army plays is making sure that our relationships on the ground in host nation countries are really, really strong because most of the countries in the region have large armies,” Wormuth said.
In terms of building on those relationships on the ground, the Army a few years ago, established a type of unit called the security force assistance brigade. There are currently five SFABs dispersed in countries all around the theater working every day to build interoperability and to set the conditions for expanding access.
“If we were to get into a conflict, I think there are a few roles that the Army can play,” said Wormuth. “I think we would be the linchpin service in terms of going in, establishing and securing staging bases, joint operating bases, providing protection for those bases so that our air and maritime forces can operate and do the kinds of things that they need to do.”
The Army would also be good at setting up a distribution network to sustain the joint force, as well as providing command and control, since the division and corps headquarters have great planning and operational capabilities, said Wormuth.
From an offensive perspective, The Army would bring long-range precision fires like precision strike missiles, and mid-range systems like hypersonic weapons to the fight. From a defensive perspective, The Army can provide maneuver forces in case of a counterattack.
“I think there’s a role to play but it’s very much in enabling the joint force,” Wormuth noted.
With regard to enabling the joint force, Berger said the Defense Department has worked to perfect fighting as one team over the last three decades and the People’s Liberation Army is “trying to play catch up and us because they see the value of fighting as a team, vice fighting as services. So, we’ve come a long way.
“It’s more than the individual capabilities of each service. It’s the ability under a combatant command to fight as one unit,” he added.
(Source: US DoD)
07 Dec 21. U.S. Congress boosts funding for Boeing jet fighters, ships in defense bill. U.S. lawmakers sought to increase aircraft and Navy ship purchases in an effort to field a robust military and send a signal to Russia and China in a massive annual defense bill released on Tuesday.
The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes nearly $770bn in national defense and adds to the Pentagon’s request for ship and aircraft purchases and increases troop pay.
The Biden Administration’s original budget request from May was debated over the course of the year and the U.S. Congress released its compromise NDAA after Democrat and Republican leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated what should be included in the bill.
The NDAA, which normally passes with strong bipartisan support, is closely watched by a broad swath of industry and other interests because it is one of the only major pieces of legislation that becomes law every year and because it addresses such a wide range of issues.
Jet maker Boeing saw the bill increase F-15EX fighter jet funding to allow for the purchase of 17 planes. The Pentagon had requested 12 in May. Congress put funding for 12 Boeing-made F/A-18E/F Super Hornets into the bill, after the Pentagon requested zero.
Breaking a trend, the bill did not increase funding for the number of F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin.
The bill funds the procurement of 13 battle force ships including two Virginia-class submarines made by Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics and three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke destroyers also made by General Dynamics.
Lawmakers included a range of efforts to push back against Russia and China in the massive annual defense bill including $300m for Ukraine’s military and a statement of support for the defense of Taiwan.
(Source: News Now/Yahoo!/Reuters)
07 Dec 21. Congress approves retirement of 160+ Air Force planes – with one notable exception. It’s beginning to look a lot like Groundhog Day for the US Air Force, with Congress once again denying the service’s request to retire the A-10 Warthog in its fiscal 2022 defense policy bill.
But in the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act, which the House and Senate armed services committees jointly released on Tuesday, the Air Force will be allowed to retire more than 160 legacy aircraft of other types, helping to free up funding for new technologies.
A House aide that spoke with Breaking Defense confirmed that — aside from a prohibition on retiring the A-10 — the Air Force will be permitted to retire all the aircraft it proposed to divest in its FY22 budget request.
That list includes 47 F-16C/Ds, 48 F-15C/D Eagles, four E-8 JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft and 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drones. The bill will allow the service to divest the 18 KC-135s and 14 KC-10s requested in the budget, while also removing a restriction prohibiting further KC-10 divestments — opening up the door for easier KC-10 retirements in future years.
Lawmakers also approved the divestment of 13 C-130Hs, five of which will be replaced by newer C-130J models, leaving a total fleet of 279 C-130 cargo planes, according to a second House aide.
Yet despite this win for the Air Force, the A-10 remains undefeated. Fiercely protected by the congressional delegation that represents Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., the attempted divestment of 42 A-10 Warthogs was thwarted, with lawmakers mandating that all 281 of the venerable ground attack plane remain in service.
The House is expected to take up the bicameral version of the NDAA tonight, in the hopes that the bill can move through Congress and be signed by President Joe Biden by Christmas.
The outcome of the FY22 NDAA will be welcome news for Air Force leadership, which has struggled to get Congress to agree to retire older aircraft that generate work at bases in their home districts.
“Our old iron, if you will, our 30-year average airplane is an anchor holding back the Air Force right now,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Dec. 4 at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “We’ve got to get rid of some of those aircraft so we can free up resources, and get on with modernization.”
Calls from the Air Force to divest legacy airframes have been a common theme since the Obama administration. For the most part, Congress has staunchly opposed any decrease to the A-10 inventory, and proposed retirements of the Global Hawk and U-2 fleets have also been batted back in past years.
The service has had more success in recent budget cycles, when it has requested to mothball only portions of a given aircraft type, especially when leaders can make the case that the legacy airframes are too old and too expensive to maintain, or when a direct replacement is coming online. (Source: News Now/Breaking Defense.com)
07 Dec 21. US to demand halt to Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine. Washington asks Berlin to back threat to gas pipeline to deter Putin from military action. The US is putting pressure on Germany to block Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as part of a package of sanctions that would be implemented in the event of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine. The demand for Berlin and Brussels to prevent the pipeline from becoming operational is part of a sanctions package the US is proposing as it tries to stave off further conflict in the region amid fears in the intelligence community that Russia’s president is preparing for military action. It comes as US President Joe Biden on Tuesday used a two-hour call with Putin to warn him of “strong economic and other measures” if Russia’s leader sends troops into Ukraine. The threat to Nord Stream 2, which is built but not yet pumping gas, would be included alongside a package of sanctions being proposed by the US, which would include financial measures such as blocking the conversion of roubles into dollars and further targeting Russian oligarchs, two officials briefed on the plan told the Financial Times. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, who listened in to the call, said “if Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine”. “We’ve had intensive discussions with both the outgoing and the incoming German government on the issue of Nord Stream 2 in the context of potential invasion,” Sullivan added in a press conference after the Biden-Putin call.
One western diplomat said Washington and Berlin had held “some pretty robust conversations” about the pipeline, adding: “Ultimately a consensus could emerge that if there is a serious invasion of Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 becomes untenable.” A US official said the new German government was expected to be “more helpful” to Washington’s pressure campaign against Russia, as the Biden administration tries to win European support for a strong package intended to make Putin wary of the costs of invading Ukraine. US officials are expected to travel to Germany as soon as the country’s new government, led by chancellor Olaf Scholz, is in place. “Nord Stream 2 is always an elephant in the room,” said the US official. “It looms large over anything to do with Russia, Germany and Ukraine.” Putin and Biden have told their teams “to follow up” on Tuesday’s call, according to a White House readout of their conversation. Also on Tuesday, Victoria Nuland, senior US state department official, said she thought Germany was ready to partake in significant actions against Russia if Putin were to invade Ukraine. “I believe they are [ready] and today is the first day of the new German government,” she said when asked about Nord Stream 2 during a Senate hearing. “We’ve already begun intensive consultations with them.”
The Kremlin said the call between Putin and Biden was “frank” and “businesslike”. Putin told Biden the Ukrainian crisis had been caused by Kyiv’s “destructive behaviour” and what he described as Nato’s “dangerous attempts to take over Ukrainian territory and grow its military potential on our frontier”. The Kremlin added Russia’s president reiterated his call for legal guarantees that Nato would not expand eastward or deploy weapons systems in countries bordering Russia that could be used to be attack it. The US has spent weeks attempting to convince European partners of the risk that Putin might invade Ukraine early next year as it tries to secure allies’ backing for an aggressive response to deter him from such a move. It is unclear what type of military escalation would class as an invasion and trigger sanctions. In 2014, Putin denied that soldiers without insignia who seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine were Russian special forces and continues to insist Moscow is not involved in the separatist war in the country’s east — despite much evidence to the contrary. The EU earlier on Tuesday vowed to expand punitive measures against Russia in case of “further aggression”. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, told EU ambassadors the bloc would “respond appropriately to any further aggressions” and take “additional restrictive measures” beyond economic sanctions in case of an invasion. Biden hosted talks with European partners on Monday ahead of the call with Putin so that he could enter the talks with his Russian counterpart with the claim that western allies were unified behind the US stance. President Joe Biden, right, with US secretary of state Antony Blinken, second right, and advisers speaking via video with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from the White House © The White House/AFP/Getty EU sanctions being discussed would focus on ways to target Russia’s economy and financial system, western diplomats said. Western officials briefed on Washington’s approach said restrictions on converting roubles into western currencies would make selling Russian oil exports “much more difficult”. The US believes Putin is assembling the troops, equipment and disinformation campaign necessary for military escalation next year. A new invasion would reactivate a slow-burning conflict in Donbas, an eastern Ukrainian region on the Russian border, which has claimed more than 14,000 lives. US intelligence on Russia’s military preparations shared with European states in recent weeks had “created a sense of urgency” around new sanctions, a senior EU official said. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula following a pro-western uprising in Kyiv. Since then, the Kremlin has supported separatist forces in the Donbas region, though it denies any direct involvement in the conflict. (Source: FT.com)
06 Dec 21. Diplomacy, Leadership Can Prevent Conflict Between Russia, Ukraine. There is space for diplomacy and leadership with Russia to prevent conflict with Ukraine, DOD officials said today.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is carefully watching the situation in the region. “I won’t get into intelligence assessments, but he is staying very keenly and closely informed by senior military and policy leaders here at the department about what we continue to see,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.
President Vladimir Putin continues to build Russian capabilities on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
President Joseph Biden will speak with Putin tomorrow.
Kirby noted that Austin was asked about the situation over the weekend and believes “that diplomacy and leadership can still make a difference,” Kirby said. “There needs to be space for that diplomacy and for that leadership, to come to play, to try to get an outcome here that is stabilizing and that doesn’t result in any sort of open armed conflict.”
The Russian build-up is disturbing as it brings back memories of Russia’s occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. The United States and its NATO allies responded with the European reassurance initiative and based troops in the Baltic Republics, Poland and other frontline states. Nations also began supplying Ukraine with lethal and non-lethal security assistance. The United States has provided millions of dollars worth of assistance to Ukraine in just the last year, Kirby said.
Other allies have also helped Ukraine defend itself. “But again, I want to go back to what I said before: We don’t believe that conflict is inevitable and that there is time and space,” Kirby said.
The United States continues to see a buildup of Russian military forces in western Russia. “This buildup is concerning to us,” Kirby said. “It is still not entirely clear what Mr. Putin’s intentions are.” (Source: US DoD)
06 Dec 21. DOD Must Act Early to Extract Much-Needed Tech From Nation’s Industrial Base. America’s technology companies make a lot of great products — but most of that is for the commercial market. If the Defense Department wants to get in on that product development cycle — and extract from it the things that are valuable to warfighters — then it must get in early and let technology companies know what it needs.
“I’ve seen a lot of really innovative small companies … a lot of these commercial companies, their product is commercial,” Heidi Shyu, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said during a discussion Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California. “If we can work with them upfront early in the design stage, we can leverage their capability for a commercial product into the DOD.”
Many companies tell her they are interested in working with DOD, but that the cost is too high to develop a commercial product into a defense product after the commercial product is already to market, Shyu said. The Defense Department is simply not a high-volume enough consumer to warrant retooling an existing product to include the features DOD needs.
“The early engagement — they value that so much,” Shyu said. “This is a piece that we’re trying to flex and push ahead: engage with the commercial company upfront, early in their design for the next generation of whatever product they are working on. great enthusiasm in that area.”
Equipping the Warfighter Through Joint Efforts
Bringing advanced capabilities to the warfighter is a priority for the department. Bringing it to all warfighters — jointly — is even more so. And Shyu said efforts are underway now — already being put into the fiscal year 2023 budget, to make that happen.
“What we’ve done is take a look at the joint warfighting capability gaps — not just to a single service but across the joint warfighting capability gaps,” she said.
Shyu said the department asked combatant commands what their shortfalls and capability gaps are. And then the department went to the services to look for what solutions might be underway, in development, that could fix those shortfalls.
“What we have done this summer … we went to the services and asked them, do you have prototypes you would like to demonstrate in a joint experimentation,” she said. “In five weeks we received over 100 white papers. There is that much enthusiasm. We reviewed all these white papers, racked and stacked them in terms of which project has the best bang for the buck in terms of fulfilling these joint capability gaps that were defined by the joint services and COCOMs.”
She said 32 of those projects have gotten a “thumbs up” to advance and are now in the FY2023 budget.
“The COCOMs are already asking me how quickly get these capabilities in our hands,” she said. “I said you guys will be the ones evaluating the capabilities. If you like it, we can go into rapid fielding. That is the path we have to be on: rapid development in terms of prototypes, rapid experimentation; get it into the hands of the users, the operators, the warfighters.” (Source: US DoD)
06 Dec 21. Austin Concerned About U.S. Citizens’ Loss of Trust, Confidence in Military. The confidence that Americans have in their military has dropped, according to a recent survey released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has seen the survey and is concerned about what its results mean to the military, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
The secretary saw the survey when he was at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday. The survey said that 45 percent of the respondents have “a great deal of confidence” in the U.S. military with 33 percent saying they have “some confidence.”
These are good numbers, but they represent a 25 percent drop from when the survey was first conducted in 2018.
Kirby would not hypothesize the reasons for the drop, but said it is concerning. “We are an all-volunteer force, and the men and women who serve in this department come from homes and families all over the country,” he said. “And so the American public’s perceptions of the United States military matters to us, not just from a recruiting perspective, although that’s valid, but also from a representational perspective.”
The trust and confidence is critically important to the institution, he said.
Kirby said the military is of the American people and, as such, is not immune from the polarization occurring in the country writ large.
The press secretary said Austin “wants to spend a little bit more time and try to see if there’s some wisdom he can glean from the survey. He obviously took it seriously when he had a chance to at least look at it briefly.”
Kirby said if the American people could see what the secretary sees when he visits the troops “that he’s confident the American people would be just as proud as he is, and just as confident in their capabilities.” (Source: US DoD)
06 Dec 21. Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the Impact of a Full-Year Continuing Resolution. The Department of Defense once again faces the threat of a continuing resolution to fund our programs and operations into the new year. While the short-term CR passed by Congress was a necessary measure to keep the government open and provide additional time to reach agreement on full-year appropriations bills, some have even suggested a CR could last an entire year, an unprecedented move that would cause enormous, if not irreparable, damage for a wide range of bipartisan priorities – from defense readiness and modernization, to research and development, to public health.
A full-year CR would be a fiscally unsound way of funding the Department of Defense and government as a whole. It would misalign billions of dollars in resources in a manner inconsistent with evolving threats and the national security landscape, which would erode the U.S. military advantage relative to China, impede our ability to innovate and modernize, degrade readiness, and hurt our people and their families. And it would offer comfort to our enemies, disquiet to our allies, and unnecessary stress to our workforce.
Essentially, in terms of real dollars, a CR would represent a budget cut – and a significant one at that.
I urge Congress to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on FY 2022 appropriations, and avoid a full-year CR, in the coming weeks.
First and most importantly, failure to reach an agreement would put our military and their families under additional and needless stress. It would mean that providing the 2.7 percent pay increase the President proposed and they so richly deserve — as well as housing allowances and other new benefits — would come at the expense of suspending many of their change-of-station moves and force us to limit the numbers of new recruits we bring in. And it would result in over five billion dollars in cuts to our operating accounts, too, hurting the readiness of our troops and curtailing our ability to cover the health-care needs of military families.
More than 100 military construction projects — many of which directly impact the quality of life of our people — would also be delayed if Congress maintains current funding levels under a full-year CR. And make no mistake about it, the impacts of those delays would be felt not only across the Department, but also in local communities around the country as job opportunities are lost and revenue for local businesses diminishes.
Of course, failing to reach an agreement on appropriations would also significantly impact the programs, the technologies and the initiatives we are trying to undertake to ensure we remain the most capable military in the world. The Department’s efforts to address innovation priorities such as cyber, artificial intelligence and hypersonics programs would be slowed.
At a time when our adversaries are advancing their concepts and capabilities to erode our strategic advantages … and as we begin to knit together a truly groundbreaking vision of integrated deterrence … our hands will be tied. We will be forced to spend money on things we don’t need and stop spending money on investments we desperately do need.
And I’d note that as important as full-year appropriations are for the Department of Defense, investments at the State Department, in research and development at the major research agencies, and in infrastructure and public health are equally critical to our national security. Again, I strongly urge Congress to seize this opportunity to sustain American competitiveness, advance American leadership, and enable our forces by immediately reaching a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on full-year 2022 appropriations. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing they can do for our nation’s defense. (source: DoD)
03 Dec 21. Can a Service Contract Save the F-35? Chronically high operating costs might be tamed with a new deal. The Air Force is pleased with the F-35’s performance in combat, and plans on it being the “cornerstone” of the fighter fleet over the next 30 years. The jet’s high operating costs —$36,000 per hour—threaten the program, though, and the Air Force only plans to buy minimal numbers of the fighter until those costs close on what was originally planned: $25,000, by 2025, in 2012 dollars.
A new sustainment contract between the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) and Lockheed Martin, inked in September, will give the company a chance to bring down operating costs over the next three years. If it can, it stands to earn even bigger contracts and be the sole-source provider of future F-35 sustainment services over decades. If it can’t, F-35 users could bring the sustainment work in-house, performing the work themselves, or potentially bringing in other contractors.
There’s little doubt that operating costs are the central issue with the F-35. House Armed Services chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) recently referred to the F-35 as a “rathole” because of its chronic sustainment issues. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said that if F-35 sustainment costs don’t come down, the Air Force will either have to fly the fighter less often—reserving them just for “high-end missions”—or buy fewer of them. House Armed Services Readiness panel chair John Garamendi (D-Calif.) promised no typical budget boost in F-35 purchases, because buying more jets was just forcing users to spread limited spare parts over too many airframes.
High operating costs are “an existential threat to the F-35.”
Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Joint Program Office director
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued two reports on F-35 sustainment so far in 2021: “Enhanced Attention to and Oversight of F-35 Affordability Are Needed,” in April, and “DOD Needs to Cut Billions in Estimated Costs to Achieve Affordability,” in July.
In the July audit, the GAO advised the Pentagon—and Congress—that buying more F-35s should be “contingent on DOD’s progress” in constraining F-35 operating costs.
“There’s a substantial and growing gap” between what the services thought they’d be spending on F-35 operations and what they actually are, the GAO said. By 2036, it expects that gap to widen to $6bn without corrective action soon. For the Air Force alone, the gap will be $4.4bn in 2036.
Joint Program Office Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric T. Fick acknowledged that high operating costs are “an existential threat to the F-35.”
But Fick, in a wide-ranging discussion with reporters in September, also said the F-35 is already close to “delivering fifth-gen capabilities at high-end fourth-generation costs.” By comparison, the F-15EX and F/A-18E/F cost about $29,000-$30,000 per hour to operate, and the new sustainment contract stipulates that Lockheed will get F-35 operating costs down to $30,000 per hour by the end of 2023. The Air Force wants the F-35 hourly cost comparable to the F-16, historically around $22,000 per hour, but in fiscal 2020 it was up to $27,000 per hour.
The $30,000 per hour goal by 2023 is for the entire air vehicle, including the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, Fick noted, but sustainment contracts with Pratt are negotiated separately from Lockheed Martin. The grand number includes “a placeholder for propulsion,” he said.
What are the main problems? Garamendi zeroed in on a big one: The F-35 fleet is growing all the time, but vendors have a limited capacity to make parts for jets both on the production line as well as those in the field. Because of different variants and configurations of the F-35, there are several versions of many parts. The COVID pandemic has slowed production of jets and parts alike, and the F-35’s stealthy materials have needed more upkeep than anticipated.
Another is the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS. It was meant to automatically sense and schedule needed maintenance actions, but it’s had teething problems, is hosted on obsolete hardware, and suffers from false alarms driving unnecessary parts changeouts. A successor system, ODIN, for Operational Data Integrated Network, is already taking over.
None of this is news. Former Pentagon acquisition and sustainment chief Ellen M. Lord said in 2018 that “right now, we can’t afford the sustainment costs we have on the F-35. And we’re committed to changing that.”
Soon after, Lockheed Martin “table dropped” a Performance Based Logistics, or PBL proposal, on Lord’s desk, Fick said. Lockheed said the new approach—which would provide an agreed level of aircraft readiness and manage the fleet accordingly—would get the Air Force to its $25K by the 2025 target. It also said that achieving the target without a PBL couldn’t happen.
“There was reluctance, particularly on the part of the services, to hand the keys over … to do all of the F-35 sustainment,” Fick said. Users were “unsatisfied” with the sustainment results up to that point, but are willing to explore Lockheed’s proposal, he said.
Lord empaneled a working group headed by then-Navy acquisition executive James Geurts—who oversaw the F-35 program at that time—to “assess everything from a ‘tip to tail’ PBL” to annual maintenance contracts to find the right solution, according to Fick. The team included representatives from the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, a consulting group, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, operational experts, and others.
Skeptical of putting Lockheed completely in charge, the group looked for “something in the middle, where you can achieve most of the benefits” of a PBL “by focusing just on the supply chain management and demand reduction piece,” Fick explained. The rest could be “offloaded onto [an annual] companion contract.”
The task force created a memorandum of understanding signed by Geurts, then-Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper, Fick and Greg M. Ulmer, Lockheed’s then-F-35 program manager, creating the terms of the contract awarded in September.
“We knew as a department that we did not want to be trapped into a bad deal … a bad PBL” that could be “weaponized” by Lockheed, Fick said. The “base year, plus two optional years” contract “puts us on a glideslope … in the right direction.”
It was a carrot and stick approach. The carrot to Lockheed was the prospect of many years of exclusive F-35 maintenance. The stick was that the company had to provide, before or at the same time a PBL deal is signed, “the provisioning and cataloging data” that would allow the services to organically take over F-35 sustainment if Lockheed didn’t perform, Fick said. The information is “the technical data associated with ordering the bits, parts, and pieces of the system—not full-up design data—that would allow an item manager to provide those … pieces to the organic depots.”
ALIS to ODIN
The F-35 program is transitioning the troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System—ALIS—to a new system called the Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN).
The ALIS has “historically … been a trouble spot,” F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Eric Fick acknowledged. Two years ago, the plan was for a swift turnover from ALIS to ODIN, but now it will be more of an “evolutionary transition,” he said.
“ODIN has three parts,” he explained. “It’s about hardware, it’s about an integrated data environment, and it’s about software.” The hardware on which ODIN will be hosted is already being fielded and upgrades to ALIS are being hosted on it.
“Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be flowing this new ODIN-based kit, or OBK, as we call it, to 14 different installations, replacing their legacy hardware with this new and improved ODIN hardware,” Fick said. The new gear is “90 percent lighter, 70 percent smaller, and about 30 percent cheaper” than the old, bulky ALIS equipment, he noted, while offering “substantially increased performance.”
The system will make the F-35 more affordable due to the “increased performance alone,” Fick said, because maintainers will spend less time keying-in codes and getting false alarms. The system shifts largely to barcode-type inputs rather than laborious entry codes.
This “should allow us, in time” to reduce the number of maintainers involved in ALIS, so they can work on the airplane, or, if they’re contractors, to “take them off contract entirely. So, we’re reducing that workload,” he said.
Fick said the Joint Program Office has established the National ALIS Support Center, where it’s consolidating system administrators “to help them adjudicate problems and challenges from the field to a centralized location,” rather than at various bases. The results so far have been “positive,” he said.
Software deliveries for ALIS/ODIN have also changed from “every two or three years” to “quarterly,” Fick reported. These are aimed at “reducing user pain points,” to make the system “more agile, easier to execute … less people, less time.”
The ODIN will “give us a quantum increase in our ability to support the fleet,” Fick said, while in the near term, “we’re … making ALIS friendlier and easier to use. Putting it on faster hardware is goodness.”
Originally, the F-35 program was a “TSPR” deal, or Total System Performance Responsibility; not unlike a PBL, but where Lockheed held all those data as its proprietary property.
“We’re using, really, the incentive of a PBL to help us get some decent pricing on the tech data required,” Fick observed, so that, at the end of the initial period, “the services and the department have an option” to go a different way.
“If it comes to pass that Lockheed really ‘kills it’ and we end up with great performance, then why would we not sign up for another PBL?” Fick asked. But if not, “then we have the data that allows us to do something different.”
That would most likely be an “organic approach,” Fick said, rather than an open competition with industry. Still, there are “some elements” that could be competed, he said.
Fick cautioned that a PBL arrangement after the initial 2021 to 2023 annual options contract “is still not a done deal.” But if things go well in the first three years, the first PBL would run 2023 to 2027, and after that, the JPO would consider five-year agreements with Lockheed, he said. Also, Congress will have something to say about the approach, as will “other stakeholders.”
The JPO already regularly does a five-year “business case assessment” on the F-35, examining exactly such issues as the best way to contract for maintenance. In September, the most recent assessment was still in final draft, but provided a “conscientious examination” of the options, Fick said.
Underlying the approach to the PBL is a desire for competition in what has been, thus far in the F-35 program, almost entirely a sole-source arrangement since Lockheed won the winner-take-all Joint Strike Fighter program in late 2001.
“I’m a strong supporter of competition,” Fick stated. “I think it improves the breed in a significant way. It drives supportability and responsiveness [with] a focus that a sole-source environment doesn’t.” He said the program is looking at other ways to “inject” competition into the F-35, but couldn’t be more specific.
Fick warned that bigger costs are coming with the F135 engine that will severely challenge the F-35 enterprise to keep costs down.
“We do expect to see annual costs for propulsion sustainment to increase,” Fick said, explaining that “we are coming up on the first scheduled overhaul for many of the engines” in the 700-plus inventory of F-35s worldwide. “We will see a bit of a bump on the costs on the propulsion side” as those engines reach 2,000 hours of service.
Fick said that in September, 42 F-35s were down for engine parts, a number which has been fairly consistent in recent months, but he said that number is down a bit. The Air Force canceled some air show demonstrations of the jet to preserve training sorties.
Amanda Glode, Pratt & Whitney’s director of sustainment for the F135, told reporters at a plant visit in October that engine costs will be going up “at the exact point the U.S. services and the entire program want the costs to be decreasing.” Pratt is meeting its contractual requirements that no more than 10 percent of F135s are down for maintenance or overhaul, but only just, at nine percent. The goal is six percent, and through much of the program, Pratt has achieved 4 percent, Glode said.
She also noted that planned investments in the F135’s depot at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., were raided to pay for other needs, with the result that the depot is “five years behind, in terms of where it should have been based on the program design and architecture.”
Even so, Tinker is accelerating the time it takes to fix engines. Glode said the target is for the depot to generate 40 power modules in a year, a goal that it will “significantly” exceed this year, after only generating 14 modules last year. The time needed to do a power module is also dropping from 200 days to 120.
Pratt continues to make improvements to parts and materials that will keep the engines in service longer, Glode said. She noted a new fan blade coating that’s giving the engine greater resiliency against desert dust, specific to the Middle East, that degrades them with moderate exposure.
Fick said policymakers should be cautious about how they approach reducing sustainment costs, even though he acknowledged they are “the place to go in looking for affordability” on the F-35. While Brown said the Air Force might fly F-35s less frequently to save money, there’s an equation there that may not be obvious, Fick warned.
There’s “cost per tail, per year” and “cost per flying hour,” Fick said, “and you have to look at those both, not just independently.”
To drive down cost per flying hour, “I do that by flying a ton,” he said, which allows amortizing fixed costs over a greater number of flying hours. But “that actually drives my cost per tail per year up, because I’m flying more; I’m burning more gas and using more parts.” Looked at another way, “I can reduce my cost per tail per year by flying less. … [By] offloading sorties to a simulator. But that will artificially drive my cost per flying hour up, because I’m now flying fewer hours and those same fixed costs are amortized over a smaller subset of hours.”
Only a “holistic view” of both of those approaches gives a realistic picture of how to “reduce cost in a meaningful way.”
It’s an equation that will become more important because, Fick said—echoing leaders of Air Combat Command—it will be increasingly difficult to practice certain tactics and operations in the open, where adversaries can see what’s happening. Only “in a synthetic environment” can F-35 pilots really practice their best tricks, away from prying eyes.
The services have to get the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE)—a wargaming system for assessing weapon effectiveness in large force-on-force exercises—working well with the F-35, he said. The F-35’s full-rate production declaration has been put off for two years largely because of delays in integrating the F-35 with the JSE.
“The whole reason the JSE exists is … we knew we couldn’t fly” the F-35 in the open “against the threats we saw off in the future.” To train against the most advanced threats, it must be done virtually, so “those are places where you might choose to offset open-air flight with some simulator work.”
He added that there are “some things you’ll never do in a simulator, and some things you’ll always do in a simulator. And you’ve just got to figure that out.”
The JPO, responding to the GAO’s July audit, said F-35 sustainment cost increases are not as dire as the GAO said. The true increase is about seven percent, in 2012 dollars, or $42.8bn over the life of the program, and that these numbers were verified by the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office. That’s still a huge amount, but the JPO also said GAO’s projections may not come to pass.
It noted that the Pentagon has decided to extend the end of the F-35’s service life from 2064 to 2077, and this has artificially “added 23 percent” to operating and sustainment costs. An increase of total aircraft to be bought, from 2,443 to 2,456, also added a half-percent to O&S costs, the JPO said, because planned flying hours over a 60-plus-year operating period have increased from 14.9 million to 15.6 million. That may well be sharply modified by how much is “offloaded” to simulators, Fick noted. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Airforce Times)
04 Dec 21. Austin Tells Reagan Forum How U.S. Will Take on Challenge of China.
“China is not 10-feet tall,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said at the Reagan Library in California today, and the United States is not a “country that fears competition.”
China is a challenge to the United States and all democracies, but America and its allies will rise to the challenge. “And we’re going to meet this one with confidence and resolve — not panic and pessimism,” Austin said.
Austin noted that President Joe Biden has said the United States is in “stiff competition” with China, and he has said that China is the U.S. military’s “pacing challenge.”
China is using all elements of national power to overturn the international rules-based architecture that has served the world so well since the end of World War II.
In his speech to the Reagan National Defense Forum, Austin delved into the competition with China, and what the Defense Department is doing to preserve the rules-based construct.
He noted that the world has seen two decades of “breakneck modernization” by the People’s Liberation Army. “China’s military is on pace to become a peer competitor to the United States in Asia — and, eventually, around the world,” he said. “China’s leaders are expanding their ability to project force and to establish a global network of military bases. Meanwhile, the PLA is rapidly improving many of its capabilities, including strike, air, missile-defense and anti-submarine measures. And it’s increasingly focused on integrating its information, cyber and space operations.”
The last is combat domains with few rules and that increase the risk of escalation and miscalculation, he said.
China is financing key technology sectors that have both civilian and military applications.
China’s nuclear posture is advancing as well, and the secretary said that China will possess at least a thousand nuclear warheads by 2030 and they are building a nuclear triad to deliver them.
“Now, we always assess not just capabilities but also intentions and actions,” he said. “The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have been increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction with the prevailing order — and about their aim of displacing America from its global leadership role. China’s President, Xi Jinping, regularly talks about ‘great changes unseen in the world in a century.’ And he recently assured his fellow Party members that ‘time and momentum are on China’s side.'”
China has a dismal human rights record and is bullying countries in Asia and Africa. “Beijing is misusing technology to advance its repressive agenda at home and exporting the tools of autocracy abroad,” Austin said.
Given all this, Austin does not see conflict as inevitable. The United States does not want a new Cold War.
“We’re determined to deter aggression, and to prevent conflict, and to establish common sense guardrails,” he said. “And our new initiatives are part of a government-wide approach that draws on all tools of national power to meet the China challenge.”
The concept undergirding next year’s National Defense Strategy is “integrated deterrence,” Austin said. “It means integrating our efforts across domains and across the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the U.S. military — in close cooperation with the rest of the U.S. government and our allies and partners — makes the folly and costs of aggression very clear,” he said.
He discussed two elements of integrated defense: partnership and innovation.
“First, we’re building on a lesson that I learned over four decades in uniform: In war and in peace, we’re always stronger when we work together with our friends. That defines our approach to the China challenge,” Austin said.
This does not mean the United States will build an Asian NATO or an anti-China coalition like the one that defeated ISIS. “And we’re not asking countries to choose between the United States and China,” he said. “Instead, we’re working to advance an international system that is free, stable and open.”
This means working closely with long-time allies and new partners around the globe, he said. The secretary noted that he has made three trips in 10 months to the Indo-Pacific. “In every conversation with our partners, I hear the same thing again and again: a call for the United States to continue playing our stabilizing role in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “And make no mistake: we will.”
This means more exercises with allies and partners, helping partners build security capabilities, and encouraging European allies to contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific, he said.
All this is in support of the status quo. “We remain steadfast to our one-China policy, and our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan’s ability to defend itself while also maintaining our capacity to resist any resort to force that would jeopardize the security of the people of Taiwan,” he said.
There are real differences — in interests and values — between China and the United States. “But the way that you manage them counts,” Austin said. “We’re going to be open and candid with China’s leaders. As President Biden put it, we need to talk ‘honestly and directly to one another about our priorities and our intentions.’ And big powers should be models of transparency and communication.”
The United States seeks to open lines of communication with China’s defense leaders — especially in a crisis. This should help reduce risk and prevent miscalculations, he said.
America’s unparalleled network of allies and partners is an asymmetric advantage over China. Innovation is another.
“Integrated deterrence requires us to weave together cutting-edge technology, operational concepts and state-of-the-art capabilities to seamlessly dissuade aggression in any form, domain or theater,” Austin said. “That means that innovation lies at the heart of American security.”
There have been incredible advances in artificial intelligence, edge computing and nanotechnology in the United States. “Nobody innovates better than the United States, but we can’t take that for granted, he said.
DOD must change the way it does business or risk losing that asymmetric advantage. “Let’s face it, for far too long, it’s been far too hard for innovators and entrepreneurs to work with the department,” he said. “And the barriers to entry for working in national security are often just too steep.”
It takes too long to get innovation to American service members. Good ideas and capabilities are demonstrated, but often fall into what many call the “valley of death” before capabilities get fielded.
“It’s bad enough that some companies get stuck in the valley of death, but some brilliant entrepreneurs and hungry innovators don’t even want to try to cross it and work with us,” he said.
Austin said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — a hothouse for ideas — is now “connecting its top research teams with corporate leaders and U.S. investors so that those teams can build successful businesses with the cutting-edge technologies they develop,” he said. “We’re doubling down on our Small Business Innovation Research program. This program helps fuel American firms to pursue R&D tailored to the department’s unique tech requirements. And so far this year, we’ve awarded funds to more than 2,500 small businesses working on groundbreaking tech.”
The department has opened new technology hubs in Seattle and Chicago to add to the ones already working in Austin, Texas and Boston. “The goal here is simple: to connect with new talent who will help us compete and win on challenges from countering UAVs to responsibly leading the AI revolution,” he said.
These efforts and more are working, because “when we maintain our technological edge, we maintain our military edge,” the secretary said. “Let me be clear: The United States has an advantage that no autocracy can match: our combination of free enterprise, free minds and free people. Even in times of challenge, our democracy is a powerful engine for its own renewal. So I will put the American system up against any other. And I’ll do so with great pride and total confidence.” (Source: DoD)
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