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19 May 22. U.S. Commitment to Indo-Pacific Region Not limited by Security Assistance to Ukraine. As of May 6, the U.S. has committed about $4.5bn in security assistance to Ukraine. Thousands of pieces of military hardware and over 50 m rounds of ammunition were included.
But U.S. assistance to Ukraine doesn’t affect its focus on the Indo-Pacific region, or limit its ability to ensure partners in the Pacific get the hardware and supplies they need, a senior defense official said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
Most of the hardware that’s been provided to Ukraine, the official said, comes through presidential drawdown authority — which means they are pulled directly from existing military stocks.
“We’re taking things that are off our inventory shelves, and giving them directly to Ukraine,” the official said. “Most of the military capabilities, the systems, the weapons, the platforms that our allies and partners in the Pacific use, they get it through foreign military sales … It’s a completely different set of priorities, a completely different set of sources.”
As of April 21, the U.S. has provided, over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; more than 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems; 700 Switchblade tactical unmanned aerial systems, 90 155 mm Howitzers and 208,000 155 mm artillery rounds; 17 counter-artillery radars; and over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition to the Ukrainians.
Today, President Biden embarks on his first trip to Asia as president. That trip, is only part of the U.S. continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
“The president’s trip is proof positive of that, as well as everything else we’ve been doing in the Indo-Pacific,” the official said. “Everybody is focused on Ukraine, and we understand that. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped working with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, it doesn’t mean we stopped our air and naval activity in the Indo-Pacific — and we’ve been talking about that throughout the last 85 days.” (Source: US DoD)
18 May 22. Pentagon CIO stands ground on December timeline for JEDI follow-up. The Pentagon’s chief information officer this week said he’s committed to an end-of-year target to award a critical cloud-computing deal, after failing to meet an April deadline that he admitted was overly ambitious.
CIO John Sherman in congressional testimony May 18 said getting the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, or JWCC, endeavor “right and getting this done by the end of this calendar year is among my very top priorities.” He further promised lawmakers that he, his team and others assisting were “getting after this with alacrity.”
The Department of Defense in 2021 nixed the $10 bn Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract, which had been won by Microsoft, after years of delays and accusations from Amazon that the Trump administration interfered in the competition. The department is racing to get the follow-up JWCC awarded amid pressure to better handle massive volumes of data and seamlessly link military systems that previously could not communicate, a concept known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
“This is so critical,” Sherman told Rep. James Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat who leads a cyber and technology subcommittee. “Sir, you’ve brought this up from here in your position. We’ve gotten that message loud and clear.”
Sherman in late March said a weighty workload and other procurement considerations would delay until December the $9 bn JWCC, even though the process is on the right track. The decision to push things back was made as the scope of what still had to be done became clear.
“It’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we thought,” Sherman said in a March 29 briefing. “And, from my CIO seat, I’ve told the team we’re going to make sure we do this right, take the time that they need, so we can stick the landing on this, given the imperative of what JWCC is for the Department of Defense.”
The JWCC contract is meant to fill a void in the department’s cloud-computing arsenal, bridging unclassified, secret and top-secret classifications and reaching to the military’s farthest edge. Sherman previously said nothing currently satisfies those needs.
The Pentagon last year contacted Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle about the JWCC, stressing that only a few companies could meet the program’s significant demands. Proposals are under review. Sherman in March would not say if he expected fewer than four deals to be made, citing procurement sensitivities.
Initial JWCC contracts will comprise a three-year base with one-year options, according to the Pentagon. A full and open competition for a future multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment will likely follow. Such an approach, Sherman said Wednesday, is more consistent with contemporary industry standards. Sherman in a July 2021 statement announcing JEDI’s cancellation said the venture was out of date and would no longer accomplish what was needed. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 May 22. U.S. Meets Milestone in Chemical Weapons Stockpile Destruction. The Defense Department’s Chemical Demilitarization Program reached a milestone in its effort to eliminate the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile and recovered chemical warfare materiel. The last M55 rocket containing venomous agent X, or VX nerve agent, was destroyed at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Kentucky on April 19, 2022.
With the entire stockpile of VX nerve agent successfully destroyed, the U.S. is on track with treaty compliance and international obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to meet the 2023 stockpile elimination deadline. Progress here supports U.S. commitment to arms control.
“When the CWC was signed, it was widely agreed that chemical weapons are one of the most inhumane weapons of mass destruction and that their use and production should be eliminated,” said Deborah G. Rosenblum, assistant defense secretary for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. “U.S. leadership and commitment against the use of chemical weapons is imperative as countries, such as Syria and Russia, have failed to comply with CWC obligations.”
As a leader in the global disarmament community, upholding norms against the possession and use of chemical weapons comes at a crucial time. Concerns persist that Russia may use chemical weapons in their assault on Ukraine, validating a fundamental view that international norms against chemical weapons remain under threat.
The U.S. remains committed to a world free from chemical weapons, and concomitant with that is a resolve to eliminate the use and production of chemical weapons.
Since the establishment of the original chemical weapons destruction deadline, the priority to safely and expeditiously dispose of chemical agents required the advancement of alternative, non-incineration technologies. According to Rosenblum, “the United States remains committed to safely and effectively eliminating our chemical weapons stockpile in a manner that protects the security, health and safety of local communities.”
The U.S. campaign to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile met delays, and corresponding extensions, from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as environmental and public health concerns were addressed to ensure the safest possible destruction methods.
While this effort began nearly 40 years ago, this final push represents decades of policy, cooperation and technological advancements.
In September 2017, Russia completed the destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile with the Russian destruction program benefiting from technical assistance and funding through DOD’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. However, as evidenced by the Russian use of the chemical agent Novichok to assassinate Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018 and use in the attempt to assassinate Alexei Navalny in August 2020, Russia clearly retains a chemical weapons capacity.
“Chemical weapons have been a scourge to humanity, and we are proud to be party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans this entire class of weapons of mass destruction,” said Kingston A. Reif, deputy assistant defense secretary for Threat Reduction and Arms Control. “We are so pleased to have achieved this milestone towards reaching complete chemical weapons disarmament.”
The DOD remains on target to the complete destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty commitment of September 30, 2023.
Destruction of the VX M55 rockets began at the Blue Grass Army Depot on July 9, 2021. Under the observation of trained operators and international inspectors from the OPCW, nearly 18,000 rockets were disassembled and drained of their chemical agent. The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives is responsible for the safe and environmentally compliant destruction of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. The PEO ACWA continues to focus on destroying the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpiles. (Source: US DoD)
17 May 22. US business groups have accused their government of undermining Taiwan’s defences by only approving the sale of weapons it believes would be essential for the democratic country to resist a full Chinese invasion. The accusation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan and the US-Taiwan Business Council comes as US president Joe Biden’s administration seeks to accelerate arms sales to Taipei, but also to steer it away from purchases of platforms such as advanced fighters and warships that Washington thinks would be of limited use against invasion. Washington’s policy would create gaps in the capabilities of the Taiwanese armed forces and “do immense long-term harm to Taiwan’s ability to deter and defend in all phases of conflict”, the business organisations said in a letter sent to senior US government officials on Monday. “This would weaken Taiwan’s defence, making it more vulnerable to a successful Chinese attack,” they wrote. The letter highlighted an increasingly fierce debate among US policymakers and arms manufacturers over how to best help arm Taiwan, which has been fuelled by growing US concerns China could invade the country in the next few years. Many in Taipei believe such fears are overstated. Resisting a full invasion would require different weapons from those needed to push back against other types of aggression that Taipei also wants to guard against, such as Chinese incursions into its air defence identification zone or a sea blockade. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to take it by force if Taipei refuses to submit to its control indefinitely. The US’s commitment to help Taiwan defend itself is codified in law. US analysts have long argued that rather than pursuing traditional platforms such as fighter jets and warships to compete with China, Taipei should focus on weapons that are cheaper and harder to destroy and can exploit a superior adversary’s weaknesses. Since Donald Trump’s administration, Washington has pushed Taipei to adjust its arms procurement to focus more on such so-called asymmetric capabilities, including handheld missiles and sea mines. But as Taipei seeks to replace ageing aircraft, warships and tanks, Biden’s administration has adopted a more radical approach. Deputy assistant secretary of state Mira Resnick told defence industry executives in March that the US wanted Taiwan to focus on capabilities such as anti-ship missiles, air and missile defences, command and communications, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and early warning systems. The administration would “steer Taiwan more strongly” towards these areas and issue denials in advance when it became aware of potential requests outside of those parameters, she said, according to minutes of a meeting hosted by the USTBC. Washington has subsequently told Taipei that it would not approve the sale of 12 MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters if they were requested. The US has also blocked a Taiwanese plan to acquire E2-D early-warning aircraft. Manufacturer Northrop Grumman was notified that the export licence for the system had been cancelled, said USTBC president Rupert Hammond-Chambers. Northrop Grumman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Pentagon has set up a cross-agency team to speed up arms sales to Taiwan, according to two people familiar with the issue.
The USTBC submitted a memo with the letter to Resnick that included proposals for streamlining Taiwanese procurement in response to a request to industry representatives for suggestions. Industry executives and security experts said Washington was right to push Taipei to focus procurement more on the threat of invasion, but that forcing its hand was counterproductive. “Taiwan’s democratic agency has been completely stripped,” said Hammond-Chambers, a signatory of the letter which was addressed to Resnick and copied to officials at the National Security Council, the state department, the Pentagon, members of Congress and Taiwanese government officials. “Relegating Taiwan’s defence only to capabilities and systems focused on a ‘D-day’ scenario . . . leaves China free to continue its grey-zone operations without consequences, and actually simplifies its planning by reducing the number of problems they are forced to consider,” the letter said. (Source: FT.com)
13 May 22. Pentagon technology chief pledges support for DIU following director’s departure. The Pentagon’s chief technology officer this week promised strong support for the Defense Innovation Unit’s mission to leverage commercial technology for military use, vowing to increase its budget in fiscal 2024 following the resignation of its director.
Michael Brown, who has served as DIU’s director since 2018, announced in late April he would resign when his four-year term ends in September, despite an option to extend his service another year. Brown told colleagues he was leaving due to “glaring weakness in modernizing DoD” and a lack of support from senior leadership, according to Politico.
The innovation hub was established to partner with companies to transition relevant technology from the commercial world to military users.
Lawmakers this week questioned Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, about the perceived lack of support for DIU at time when Pentagon leaders are calling for greater use of commercial technology.
“The department has repeatedly emphasized harnessing commercial technology better,” Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., said during a May 12 House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee hearing. “It’s been Congress, not the department, that has repeatedly pushed investment in DIU and in innovation.”
Shyu said DIU has “very strong support” in the department and she’s “very pleased” with what the organization has accomplished. She acknowledged DIU’s frustration with its funding levels — referencing a $7 m reduction from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022 — and highlighted the $16 m increase for DIU in fiscal 2023, bringing its total request to $43.9 m.
When lawmakers pointed out the increase from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2023 doesn’t cover inflation, Shyu agreed the department needs to better prioritize funding. She said she expects “a much stronger request” in fiscal 2024.
Moulton highlighted a 2020 Future Defense Task Force report published by the House Armed Services Committee, which called for a 10-fold increase in funding for DIU.
“We clearly need to be spending a lot more on innovation — not incrementally more, not 10% more, but on the order of magnitude of 10 times more,” he said.
As for Brown’s successor, Shyu said she doesn’t have a timeline for identifying a replacement, but is starting a search. She noted DIU’s deputy director, Mike Madsen, extended his term by one year, giving the organization some continuity during the transition.
“I will search for candidates that have experience in the commercial sector and, preferably, some experience in the venture world — or at least knowledge in the venture world,” she said.
Shyu said one of DIU’s biggest challenges has been generating what she called “the pull” for new technology from the services’ acquisition offices.
“A lot of small companies have great ideas, they produce a lot of prototypes and it’s this funnel going down to production,” she said. “It’s the pull from the acquisition community that we need, so I think that’s what I want to focus on.”
To help address that issue, Shyu said DoD will roll out a new initiative in the next few months called Strategic Capital to help small companies secure capital investments and work directly with service-level program offices to generate demand for their technology.
“This really helps the small business to get a lot more funding to continue to develop the prototypes and mature to the phase that they can transition,” she said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
13 May 22. DOD Must Take Action to Keep Tech Edge. As America’s strategic competitors advance their technological advantage, the U.S. must take action to avoid losing its edge, said the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, Heidi Shyu told lawmakers at the House Armed Services Committee what the Defense Department must do to maintain its technological advantage. The first step, she said, is building a strong foundation for research and development within the department. The second, she said, is changing how DOD does business.
“Every strong structure needs to stand on a solid foundation to ensure this country retains our edge and fuels the future technologies and capabilities,” Shyu told lawmakers. “We must make a commitment to science and technology, particularly in basic research.”
Shyu said the department must, among other things, increase efforts to attract the best talent, must build more robust and necessary infrastructure for R&D, must perform joint experimentation and must do better at collaborating across the technology ecosystem.
“If we expect the department to attract the world’s best and brightest, to produce state-of-the-art technologies, we must modernize our laboratories and test ranges,” she said. “The future of the department depends on talented people, and we’re committed to developing this talent.”
As part of that commitment, she said, the department has invested in a variety of workforce, educational and research programs ranging from K-12 robotic systems to STEM scholarships and social science research.
The Defense Department has historically been a leader in R&D and still is. But now, in the U.S., the private sector’s capacity for R&D — without the DOD’s involvement — has exploded, Shyu said.
“As seen in Ukraine, novel commercial technology, paired with conventional weapons, can change the nature of conflict,” she said. “The department’s processes, ranging from programming, to experimentation, to collaboration, should be updated to reflect the dynamic landscape of today and anticipate the needs of tomorrow.”
The U.S. private sector, Shyu said, is America’s competitive advantage.
“We must focus on improving how the government and private sector work together,” she said. “I am committed to working with you to ensure the department can move as quickly as possible as it engages with the private sector, and the whole innovation ecosystem, to rapidly transition technology to future capabilities.” (Source: US DoD)
13 May 22. U.S., Thai Defense Leaders Look to Future in Indo-Pacific.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Thailand’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to the Pentagon yesterday to build on the more than 200-year-old history between the two countries.
Thailand is America’s oldest friend and ally in the Indo-Pacific, and for centuries the two nations have worked closely together to bolster security in the region, Austin said.
Austin also announced that he will make his first trip to Thailand as defense secretary next month.
Austin thanked the prime minister for the help Thailand has provided the United States over the years. He singled out access to Thailand’s U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield. He also thanked the Thai people for hosting Exercise Cobra Gold — one of the largest military exercises in the region. Austin was pleased that the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the exercise and said the United States will be back at full scale for the 2023 exercise.
“Today, I’m looking forward to discussing our access and presence initiatives, further opportunities for joint training and other issues of common concern — including border security,” Austin said. “And we’ll talk about new ways to strengthen our alliance for years to come.”
Both the secretary and the prime minister mentioned the cooperation between the two countries on COVID-19. “We’ve faced challenges together as allies — including the pandemic — where we’ve cooperated on response efforts and medical research,” Austin said.
The prime minister thanked the United States “for providing COVID-19 vaccine and other key medical equipment which was a great benefit to our country. This reflects the close cooperation between Thailand and the United States, extending back over 189 years.”
The prime minister further said COVID-19 is an example of the “new form of threats that all nations must confront. This is an area in which the Thai and U.S. military can cooperate as well to further protect our society and strengthen our infrastructure in this regard.”
The Thai government is also working to modernize and professionalize the armed forces in response to the increasingly complex security environment, Prayut said. He said they will base the standards for the military on American forces. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United States for supporting us on military hardware and equipment, which has played an important role in ensuring our military readiness and modernization of our armed forces,” he said. “The United States has also provided us with support for training on various curricula, and the knowledge and experience from the courses is vital in developing our armed forces and in promoting its professionalization.” (Source: US DoD)
18 May 22. US: Primary results point to tense Pennsylvania midterm poll, increasing unrest risks. On 17 May John Fetterman won the Democratic Senate primary race in the state of Pennsylvania, a swing state that is seen as providing Democrats on of the best opportunities to consolidate their Senate majority in the November midterm elections. Fetterman is a popular Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor but considered part of the more progressive Democrat wing and labelled as a “radical” by Republicans. The Republican Senate primary votes are still being counted but he looks likely to face Mehmet Oz, a TV personality that has been endorsed by former president Donald Trump. This matchup is likely to produce an intense and highly polarising midterm election campaign. Compounding this, Doug Mastriano, another Trump-backed far-right politician that opposed abortion and denies that Trump lost the 2020 general election, won the Republican Governor primary. The results increase the risk of violent clashes between the two camps and potential unrest in Pennsylvania if the races prove to be tight. (Source: Sibylline)
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