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25 Aug 23. Pentagon Tackling Nuclear Modernization With Proactive, Integrated Approach. The Defense Department is instituting a forward-leaning, whole-of-department approach in accomplishing its top priority of maintaining the world’s foremost nuclear deterrence capability, a top Pentagon official said today.
Deborah G. Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs and executive secretary of the Nuclear Weapons Council said her top priority is ensuring the entire DOD is aligned and proactive as it executes its nuclear modernization efforts.
“This work is so important and so vital and is really a no-fail mission for us, we need to make sure that the senior-most leadership of the department remains focused on it, is actively working on it is solving problems and challenges,” she said.
The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review identified the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a top priority in maintaining a strong nuclear deterrence.
That modernization effort, which is being carried out over the next two decades, includes initiatives to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad.
Under the effort, the U.S. will field the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile system to replace the Minuteman III, the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine to replace the Ohio class SSBNs currently in service, and the B-21 Raider to replace the B-2A Spirit bomber among other initiatives.
The modernization program also calls for the modernization of nuclear warheads, which are managed by the Department of Energy and the overarching nuclear command, control and communication capabilities.
The Nuclear Weapons Council, which has long served as the statutory body staffed by both DOD and Department of Energy personnel to oversee the nation’s nuclear programs, has become the focal point for the wide-ranging nuclear modernization program.
In a memorandum earlier this month, William A. LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, and the executive chair of the Nuclear Weapons Council, identified the council as the “primary mechanism to integrate, streamline, and ensure unity of purpose and direction for nuclear deterrence-related activities related to the nuclear deterrence mission.”
Rosenblum said identifying the council as the focal point for carrying out the complex modernization efforts is a critical step in ensuring senior leaders throughout the department have collective visibility and are empowered to proactively manage risk throughout the modernization effort.
“His direction is , given the challenge, given the far-ranging risks we have, that we need to use this body proactively,” she said.
Rosenblum said having collective visibility across the DOD, ensures senior leaders can identify cross-cutting risks, ranging from supply chain and cybersecurity risks to industrial base and workforce constraints, as early as possible.
Senior DOD officials have remained clear that there is no room for error as the U.S. embarks on its nuclear modernization effort.
In his memorandum plotting the Nuclear Weapons Council’s course in the modernization efforts, LaPlante said nuclear deterrence remains the DOD’s “highest priority mission.”
Rosenblum said the 2022 National Defense Strategy makes clear that national security landscape is becoming increasingly challenging as evidenced by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the increased competition with China, which senior leaders have identified as the United States’ pacing challenge.
In approaching those challenges, nuclear deterrence remains “our number one priority,” she said.
“Our nuclear arsenal is the foundation and the bedrock of our defense, not only of ourselves but also our allies,” Rosenblum said. “And we have to have a deterrent that’s credible so that no adversary thinks at any moment that it’s in their interest to contemplate, let alone use a nuclear weapon against the U.S. or one of our allies.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
25 Aug 23. Justice Department Sues SpaceX for Discriminating Against Asylees and Refugees in Hiring. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) for discriminating against asylees and refugees in hiring. The lawsuit alleges that, from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as “export control laws,” SpaceX could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as “green card holders.” Export control laws impose no such hiring restrictions. Moreover, certain protected asylees’ and refugees’ permission to live and work in the United States does not expire, and they stand on equal footing with U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents under export control laws. Under these laws, companies like SpaceX can hire such protected asylees and refugees as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3) for the same positions they would hire U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Once hired, such protected asylees and refugees can access export-controlled information and materials without additional government approval, just like U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The department’s lawsuit alleges that SpaceX discriminated against such protected asylees and refugees based on citizenship status at multiple stages of the hiring process. For example:
- SpaceX discouraged asylees and refugees from applying for open positions, through public announcements, job applications, and other online recruiting communications that excluded asylees and refugees.
- SpaceX failed to fairly consider applications submitted by asylees and refugees.
- SpaceX refused to hire qualified asylee and refugee applicants and repeatedly rejected asylee and refugee applicants because of their citizenship status.
- SpaceX hired only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, from September 2018 to September 2020.
23 Aug 23. Pentagon Official Calls for Total Force Focus on Emerging Biothreats. The Defense Department has reached a pivotal point in responding to the quickly evolving biological threat landscape, a senior Pentagon official said today.
Deborah G. Rosenblum, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said the U.S. faces an unprecedented number of complex biological threats posed by near peer competitors, non-state actors and naturally occurring pandemics that require an integrated, departmentwide focus.
“These threats certainly impact the readiness and resilience of our military forces,” Rosenblum said. “Biodefense is no longer something that’s the purview of just specialized units who have traditionally been worried about these threats.
“Integrated deterrence requires a combat credible force,” she continued. “And to be combat credible, the whole joint force must be capable of fighting through biothreats and being resilient.”
Earlier this month, the Pentagon released its inaugural Biodefense Posture Review which lays out key reforms aimed at positioning the department to counter biothreats through 2035.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III directed the comprehensive review in a 2021 memo outlining DOD’s biodefense vision and providing direction for the department to ensure the military remains prepared to operate in a biothreat environment.
The reforms outlined in the review call for enhanced early warning and understanding of emerging biothreats, improving preparedness of the total force, speeding response to biothreats to mitigate their impact on DOD missions and improving strategic coordination and collaboration to enhance biodefense.
The reforms will be initiated by the newly created biodefense council, chaired by William A. LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
The reforms also align with key National Defense Strategy priorities to defend the homeland against the multidomain pacing threat posed by the People’s Republic of China, deter strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies and build a resilient joint force.
“The was built on the foundation laid out in the National Defense Strategy along with the National Biodefense Strategy, but it was also greatly informed by a number of lessons learned from the COVID-19 response,” Rosenblum said during an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Rosenblum said that in addition to remaining focused on biological threats posed by near-peer competitors and nonstate actors, the U.S. must remain focused on emerging biotechnologies that could be incorporated into adversaries’ future biological warfare programs.
“We are at a pivotal point in biodefense,” Rosenblum said. “We must maintain our momentum to prepare for any number of complex potential biological threats.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
22 Aug 23. Government shutdown could hinge on fight over ‘woke’ military policies. A group of conservative lawmakers is vowing to oppose any federal budget extension and risk a partial government shutdown unless congressional leaders promise to end all “woke” military policies and agree to other political concessions.
The move heightens already growing fears that troops and Defense Department civilians could see their paychecks stopped and their job responsibilities paused at the start of October because of political infighting. Government appropriations for the current fiscal year run out on Sept. 30.
On Monday, members of the influential House Freedom Caucus released a statement outlining demands for upcoming negotiations on the federal budget. House Republican leaders will need to appease some or all of the caucus’s 45 members to pass any budget deal, or get cooperation from Democrats on a spending plan.
Without a short-term extension of current spending levels or a long-term budget deal, numerous federal agencies — including the Department of Defense — would be forced to stop paying employees and shutter most activities.
In the past, that has meant closures for military commissaries, cancellation of non-essential military travel and training, and shuttering of most family support programs. Troops would still be required to report for duty, but non-essential Defense Department civilian workers would be sent home until a new budget deal is completed.
Reaching a short-term budget deal was expected to be Congress’ top priority when lawmakers return from their late-summer break in early September. But the process was already expected to be contentious, given strong disagreements between Republicans and Democrats in Congress on spending priorities. The Caucus demands further add to that challenge.
In a statement, caucus members said they will support a short-term budget extension only if it includes plans to “end the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon undermining our military’s core warfighting mission.” Group members did not specify what policies or programs that would specifically entail.
As part of the annual defense authorization bill debate earlier this summer, House Republicans passed measures that would roll back diversity and inclusion training in military units, ban the teaching of “critical race theory” at service academies, and prohibit drag shows and other LGBTQ+ support events at military bases.
Those provisions were met with opposition from House Democrats. In the Senate, where Democratic lawmakers have a majority, leaders said they would not allow such provisions to move ahead.
The House Freedom Caucus is also demanding new border security legislation and restrictions on the Justice Department as part of any short-term budget extension. Members also said they will “oppose any blank check for Ukraine in any supplemental appropriations bill.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has publicly promised not to allow any budget extension to go past early December, vowing to complete a full-year budget plan for fiscal 2024 before the end of the calendar year.
The last partial government shutdown began in December 2018 and lasted 35 days. But Defense Department personnel were largely exempt from the effects of that stalemate, because funding for military operations had been approved by Congress separate from other agencies.
The last time Defense Department civilians were furloughed for a significant stretch because of partial shutdown was in 2013. During that 13-day impasse, troops missed one paycheck, but were awarded retroactive pay after a deal was reached. (Source: Defense News)
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