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27 Jul 23. US Republicans urge more funding for submarines in light of AUKUS deal. Twenty-five U.S. Republican lawmakers urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to increase funding for the country’s submarine fleet, citing the recent three-nation AUKUS project to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines and concern about China’s increasing military might.
“We support the vision of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) partnership and its potential to change the strategic landscape in the Indo-Pacific. The AUKUS agreement is vitally important, but we must simultaneously protect U.S. national security,” the lawmakers said in a letter.
They said the plan to sell three attack submarines to Australia would “unacceptably weaken” the U.S. fleet without a clear plan to replace them.
The letter was led by Senators Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
They said Biden should make an “AUKUS-specific” spending request along with a multi-year plan to increase U.S. submarine production to a minimum of 2.5 Virginia-class attack submarines per year, compared with the 1.2 such submarines currently being produced.
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The Virginia class submarines were designed by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The multi-stage AUKUS project announced in March is planned to culminate in the late 2030s and early 2040s with British and Australian production and operation of a new submarine class – SSN-AUKUS – and include “cutting edge” U.S. technologies.
Before that, in the early 2030s, the United States is supposed to sell Australia three U.S. Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines, with an option for Australia to buy two more.
Big questions remain, however, over issues including U.S. curbs on the extensive technology sharing needed and how long it will take to deliver the Virginia-class submarines, given limited U.S. production capacity, even as the perceived threat posed by China that inspired the project mounts. (Source: Reuters)
27 Jul 23. Upcoming Strategy to Outline Agency’s Supply Chain Security Approach. The 2021 cyberattack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline for days sent Defense Logistics Agency Energy officials scrambling for new ways to get fuel to East Coast customers and underscored the need for supply chain resilience.
A new strategy being drafted by DLA will become the agency’s roadmap for addressing such vulnerabilities and protecting the security of the Defense Department supply chain that serves troops and federal partners around the world.
“How do we protect against disruptions? And are we doing the right things to make sure our supply chains will continue to produce what’s needed? Those are some of the things we’re addressing as we build our framework,” said Peter Battaglia, director of DLA Logistics Operations’ Mission Assurance Directorate.
Operations, acquisition and information technology teams at DLA Headquarters are outlining the strategy, which will chart how the agency detects and responds to problems in supply chain operations caused by threats like natural disasters, geopolitical developments, diminishing manufacturers, cyberattacks and nefarious activities.
Battaglia said he expects the strategy to be shared with major subordinate commands for input this fall. Protective measures are being refined or developed in four areas:
- DLA systems and data
- Suppliers with information such as controlled unclassified information, export control data and other DLA data
- Critical supplier operations
- Suppliers and systems critical to support not included in other categories
IT specialists on the Cyber Emergency Response Team already monitor DLA’s 100-plus systems 24/7 for cyber threats, improper logins and other issues. They work to reduce risks and build defenses as well.
Battaglia said more measures are needed to protect information like technical quality data that the agency shares with suppliers, whether it’s through IT systems or business discussions.
“Say we’re providing our logistics data to one of the contract service suppliers that we operate with. We’re determining measures we can take to ensure they’re not going to lose our data, be it through malicious data breaches or inappropriate internal management,” he said.
Behavior-based monitoring will be part of the plan and includes limiting access to systems to only those who need it and looking for indicators that a company has or could be hacked. While the agency already has some measures in place, Battaglia said the goal is to adopt practices and tools that pinpoint potential problems so they can be addressed upfront.
DLA is also determining cybersecurity expectations it might need to impose on suppliers who provide critical items such as fuel.
“Because DLA is largely an acquisition element within logistics, we’re extending supply chain security all the way to our suppliers to make sure they’re able to continue operating and providing us with the required supplies and services,” Battaglia said.
That includes ensuring suppliers and sub-suppliers have access to raw materials, especially those that are scarce but critical to military equipment. DLA Strategic Materials already manages material that’s critical to national security. Additionally, through DLA’s Warstopper Program, acquisition specialists arrange contracts for essential go-to-war items that might need sudden, rapid production.
DLA may also need to integrate with organizations like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is responsible for protecting 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the United States, Battaglia continued.
And as agency officials determine how DLA will ensure supply chain security, they must also consider the cost.
“If protection measures double the cost but only take us from 95% security to 97% security, is it worth it? What’s the cost-value-benefit ratio?” Battaglia added.
DLA has 61 years of experience in supply chain risk management to build upon and has already had successes, he said, pointing to a program in which DLA Land and Maritime validates and certifies microelectronics that are susceptible to counterfeiting.
Battaglia noted that all DLA employees have a role in keeping the supply chain secure, much like with operations security.
“It’s an extreme example, but if DLA suppliers start doubling production of all chem-bio defense items such as chemical protective gear and gas masks, that information could send a very big signal throughout the world. So, it’s important for employees as well as our suppliers to always keep security in mind,” he said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
26 Jul 23. House advances AUKUS authorizations amid sub, export control debate. The House on Wednesday advanced a series of authorizations needed to implement the trilateral AUKUS agreement, meant to enable the U.S. and U.K. to help Australia obtain its own nuclear-powered submarine fleet as the three countries simultaneously deepen cooperation on disruptive and emerging technologies.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously advanced an authorization to sell up to two nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines to Australia despite consternation from some lawmakers about industry’s capacity to meet production goals.
But authorizations to give Britain and Australia a broad, general exemption to a key U.S. export control regime ran into Democratic opposition, prompting Republicans on the committee to advance the legislation along party lines. The U.K. and Australia have pushed for a blanket export control exemption, arguing it’s necessary to better facilitate AUKUS cooperation on advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and hypersonic weapons.
“They need these exemptions to move at a faster pace because it’s too slow, and it’s critical right now given the threat from China,” McCaul told Defense News ahead of the vote. “And the nuclear sub, that’s the one thing the Chinese don’t have us beat on. We’ve got superiority with the nuclear sub. So getting that moving is hugely important for deterrence reasons.”
The submarine transfer bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., authorizes the sale of two Virginia-class vessels to Australia so long as the president certifies that doing so will not impact U.S. underseas operational requirements and that the industrial base can maintain submarine production requirements.
The Navy seeks to build two Virginia-class attack submarines and one Columbia-class ballistic submarine per year, though industry is currently only producing approximately 1.2 Virginia-class vessels per year. Under the AUKUS roadmap unveiled in May, Australia will buy at least three and as many as five Virginia-class submarines from the Navy in the 2030s, either newly built or used.
The submarine capacity debate in the Senate has complicated passage of AUKUS authorizations as amendments to the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The Pentagon in May asked Congress to attach the submarine transfer authorizations to the NDAA.
Australia has agreed to invest $3bn in the U.S. submarine industrial base as part of AUKUS, and the Huizenga bill advanced by the House Foreign Affairs Committee also authorizes the Pentagon to accept those payments from Canberra. Additionally, it authorizes private-sector Australian employees to begin training in nuclear-powered submarine work.
The stricken fast-attack submarine Connecticut returns to the dry dock on July 12 following Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington, upgrades that officials say will allow the facility to better withstand a catastrophic earthquake. (Navy)
The Senate is currently debating the NDAA, but Politico reported last week that Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is holding up the AUKUS amendments unless Congress injects additional funding into the submarine industrial base. Wicker is the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Wicker’s office confirmed the hold on Wednesday, but told Defense News it does not apply to training Australian personnel or export control waivers. His hold applies to the submarine transfer provision and the language allowing the U.S. to accept Australian investments in the submarine industrial base.
“President Biden should immediately send Congress a request for supplemental appropriations and authorities — including a detailed implementation plan — that increases U.S. submarine production to 2.5 Virginia-class attack submarines a year,” Wicker wrote in a July Wall Street Journal op-ed. “It is time to make generational investments in U.S. submarine production capacity that include supplier and workforce development initiatives.”
The House’s FY24 NDAA invests $251m in the submarine industrial base, and the Senate version authorizes multiyear procurement for the Navy to procure the next block of 10 Virginia-class submarines.
The Senate bill also includes a nonbinding provision calling for additional defense spending beyond the $886bn top line agreed to in the debt ceiling compromise. Wicker wants the additional submarine funding in a supplemental defense spending bill Senate leaders agreed to take up later this year to secure the debt ceiling vote, despite opposition from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
‘A faster pace’
Two other bills advanced by the House Foreign Affairs Committee would give both Britain and Australia a blanket exemption to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR.
The committee voted 25-22 to advance a bill from Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., that would give Australia a blanket exemption to ITAR — a privilege currently only enjoyed by Canada. It voted 26-23 to advance another bill from Rep. Thomas Keane, R-N.J., to extend that same exemption to Britain.
A June legislative proposal from the State Department, seen by Defense News, asked Congress to give Australia and Britain the ITAR exemptions only if the two countries implement their own export control regimes “that are at least comparable to those administered by the United States.”
Democrats on the committee sided with the State Department and Pentagon, opposing exemptions that do not require Australia and the U.K. to first tighten their export control laws.
Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, the top Democrat on the committee, noted the Biden administration is pushing both countries to do just that, and argued the legislation would undermine those efforts “by mandating premature exemptions.”
“The [People’s Republic of China] focuses significant personnel and resources on surveilling, stealing, capturing or otherwise gaining an advantage over the United States and our allies,” Meeks said ahead of the vote. “The targeting of Australian defense industry insiders and experts has increased since AUKUS’ announcement. The U.K. faces similar intelligence threats.”
The Senate’s AUKUS bill, introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., exempts Australia and Britain from certain ITAR licensing requirements, but stops short of the blanket exemption in the House bills.
McCaul said “there’s too much bureaucracy within the ITAR system” and argued both countries need the exemptions to “move at a faster pace” in developing advanced defense technologies to counter China.
Republicans and Democrats compromised to advance a fourth bill from McCaul that would require the State Department to establish a senior AUKUS adviser. McCaul agreed to remove additional language on ITAR exemptions from his bill to secure support from Democrats.
The Senate NDAA also includes a provision that would require a senior Pentagon official to coordinate AUKUS activities within the Defense Department.
McCaul said he hopes Congress will add the four AUKUS bills when the House and Senate convene a conference committee later this year to draft a final NDAA.
“I’ve already gotten texts from the Australian ambassador, prime minister and the U.K. secretary of defense thanking us for moving this forward,” McCaul told Defense News. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
26 Jul 23. Department of Commerce and Department of Defense Sign Memorandum of Agreement to Strengthen U.S. Defense Industrial Base.
The United States Department of Commerce and Department of Defense have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to expand collaboration to strengthen the U.S. semiconductor defense industrial base. The agreement will increase information sharing between the Departments to facilitate close coordination on the CHIPS for America’s incentives program, ensuring that their respective investments position the U.S. to produce semiconductor chips essential to national security and defense programs.
The MOA is a crucial step forward in implementing the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. The MOA will advance this agenda to strengthen manufacturing and supply chains here at home, solidify America’s global leadership, and protect long-term national security.
“This agreement is an important step forward in increasing the capacity and resiliency of our domestic semiconductor industrial base,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy, Dr. Laura Taylor-Kale, who signed the MOA on behalf of the Department of Defense. “It is essential for DoD and DoC to consult one another to ensure we are making complementary investments that support a robust semiconductor industrial base. Both Departments are working together to expand domestic semiconductor production capacity in a coordinated fashion.”
“Advancing U.S. national security is a top priority. Our Departments must work together and align on where and how we are making investments to strengthen the U.S. industrial base,” CHIPS Program Office Director Michael Schmidt, who signed the MOA on behalf of the Department of Commerce. “This agreement will enable our teams to coordinate the national security review of applications, produce semiconductor chips in America that our military relies on, and bolster our domestic supply chain resiliency.”
By aligning priorities and decision-making, the MOA will enable a more synchronized approach to promoting a robust and resilient semiconductor supply chain. Specific areas of consultation identified in the MOA include sharing information on the semiconductor needs of the Defense Industrial Base, the investment priorities of DoD and each military service, the existing and planned investments to sustain mature and legacy chip capabilities for current defense programs, and funding to support emerging technologies that are critical to future U.S. national security programs.
The MOA will also facilitate collaboration on potential investment applications to ensure DoC and DoD are making complementary decisions that maximize federal investments under the CHIPS Incentive Program and DoD Defense Production Act and Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment funds. (Source: U.S. DoD)
21 Jul 23. U.S. Strategies Adjust to Needs of Allies, Partners. American strategy in the Indo-Pacific is not “one-size, fits all” but a mix of engagements and approaches scaled `to meet the needs of different allies and partners, said Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs today.
Ratner, along with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink, spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
“We meet our partners where they are,” Ratner said. The United States works with nations of the region addressing issues of mutual concern.
The United States long-term goals in the region remain the same — a secure and stable Indo-Pacific — but the approaches change depending on circumstances.
An example is the case of the Pacific-island nations who have grave concerns about climate change, illegal fishing, encroachments on sovereignty and more. The United States will work with those countries to address those problems to the benefit of both sides. Addressing those issues will be a major part of partnerships with those nations.
Other states in the Indo-Pacific have different concerns, and the United States brings different mixes to those engagements, he said. Those nations may be focused on high-end deterrence and U.S. officials will “meet them where they are” too, he said.
“The tools may be different, I think there is clear strategic alignment,” Ratner said. “And that is why we have been so successful over the last year.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will visit Papua-New Guinea and Australia next week. He will be the first U.S. secretary of defense to ever visit the nation and he will discuss the new defense cooperation agreement between the two nations.
Austin will move on to Australia where he will participate in the latest “2+2” discussions that feature the foreign affairs and security departments of both nations. “The Australians are very focused in building out and domestic indigenous munitions capability, and we’re going to support that,” Ratner said. “We’re going to have some specific announcements associated with that.”
The U.S. and Australian leaders will also discuss moves to fashion a more diversified, mobile, resilient and lethal force posture. “We’ve got a lot going on with the Australians, and we’ll be rolling out some very specific new announcements associated with that,” Ratner said.
Finally, both countries will look for better ways to network alliance and partnerships in the region, Ratner said. “We made an announcement last year that we were going to start looking at ways to integrate Japan in particular, into U.S. force posture initiatives in northern Australia,” he said. “And we’re going to have some specific announcements next week about how we’re going to do that.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
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