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Pentagon expects China to add international military bases
By Agence France-Presse
-
May 3, 2019


The US Defence Department expects China to add military bases around the world to protect its investments in its ambitious One Belt One Road global infrastructure programme, according to an official report released on Thursday (May 2).

Beijing currently has just one overseas military base, in Djibouti, but is believed to be planning others, including possibly Pakistan, as it seeks to project itself as a global superpower.

“China’s advancement of projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative (OBOR) will probably drive military overseas basing through a perceived need to provide security for OBOR projects,” the Pentagon said in its annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments.

“China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.

That effort could be constrained by other countries’ wariness of hosting a full-time presence of the People’s Liberation Army, the report noted.
But target locations for military basing could include the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the western Pacific.

China has already established well-armed outposts on contested atolls it build up in the South China Sea.

Last year, there were reportedly discussions on a base in the Wakhan corridor of northwest Afghanistan.

In addition, The Washington Post recently identified an outpost hosting many Chinese troops in eastern Tajikistan, near the strategic junction of the Wakhan Corridor, China, and Pakistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sought to project the country’s power beyond its immediate “back yard” in East and Southeast Asia.

This includes strengthening the country’s presence in international institutions, acquiring top-flight technology and establishing a strong economic presence worldwide.

It also includes projecting the country’s military force on land, sea and in space, the report notes.

“China’s leaders are leveraging China’s growing economic, diplomatic, and military clout to establish regional preeminence and expand the country?s international influence,” the report said.

Beijing in particular increasingly see the United States as becoming more confrontational in an effort to contain China’s expanding power, it said.
Beijing meanwhile has taken note of a growing suspicion in many countries of the One Belt One Road programme, and has toned down its aggressive rhetoric in response.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon said Beijing’s leadership has not altered its fundamental strategic goals.
 

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AAI nets $20.5M for mine sweep system on Littoral Combat Ships
The Unmanned Influence Sweep System Unmanned Surface Vehicle program allows the LCS to sweep for acoustic, magnetic and combination-type mines.
By Allen Cone
MAY 3, 2019

The littoral combat ship mission module program tests the in-port launch and recovery of an unmanned surface vehicle during integration testing of the unmanned influence sweep system of littoral combat ship USS Independence in San Diego. Photo by Steen Jensen/Naval Surface Warfare Center

May 3 (UPI) -- AAI Corp. was awarded a $20.5 million contract for engineering and technical services for the unmanned influence sweep system, which allows the Navy's Littoral Combat Ships to perform mine warfare sweep missions.

Work is expected to be completed by this September, including 70 percent in AAI's plant in Hunt Valley, Md., and 30 percent in Slidell, La., the Defense Department announced Thursday.

The system, which is part of the mine countermeasures mission package, allows LCS crews to sweep for acoustic, magnetic, and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types.

The UISS program will satisfy the Navy's need to conduct rapid, wide-area mine clearance, according to the Navy.

In January, the UISS, as well as the Knifefish, another unmanned undersea vehicle, completed successful testing aboard the USS Independence.
Both systems verified the communications link between Independence and the unmanned systems, as well as executed multiple launch and recovery evolutions from the ship.

"These test events mark a critical milestone for the LCS Mission Module Program, having now successfully tested each vehicle in the MCM MP -- that is, an MH-60S helicopter, MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, UISS and Knifefish UUV -- on board an Independence-variant LCS," the Navy said in a news release.

These systems then will undergo shore-based testing before completing final integration on an LCS. The LCS Mission Module program office plans to incrementally deliver MCM MP systems to the fleet in advance of the formal MCM MP initial operational test and evaluation events beginning in 2021.

Navy fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funding in the amount of $7.7 million has been obligated when the new contract was awarded, and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

On Thursday, Huntington Ingalls Industries received a $931.7 million contract from the U.S. Navy for planning yard services to support littoral combat ships. The planning yard services include post-delivery life-cycle support, maintenance development and scheduling, and modernization planning, engineering and material support, the company said.

There are two versions of the LCS -- the Freedom variant, built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine, and the Independence variant, built by General Dynamics and Austal USA. The Navy has 33 LCS vessels planned, under construction or in service.

 

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DOD Official Details Continuing Chinese Military Buildup
  • May 03, 2019
  • By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON --
China continues to build up its military to challenge and supplant the United States as the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific region, the assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs said today.


A man speaks at a Pentagon podium.

Randall G. Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, briefs the Pentagon press on the contents of the new DOD report on Chinese military power.
DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber Smith


Randall G. Schriver briefed the Pentagon’s press corps following the release of the new China Military Power Report. He said China continues to challenge U.S. military advantages, such as America’s ability to deploy and sustain forces anywhere in the world and its unparalleled alliance system.

China is investing money and time into capabilities and capacity, Schriver said.

“Our 2019 report finds that in the coming decades, China seeks to become both prosperous and powerful, and the report notes that China has a stated goal of becoming a world class military by 2049,” he said.

China Building Military
China is continuing to build its missile force, Schriver said, and it has begun building a second aircraft carrier. The nation is sailing two new cruisers and is building more, he said. And China’s air force has flown its J-20 fifth-generation aircraft, Schriver said. The aircraft has stealth characteristics and many U.S. officials have said they believe it may contain technologies stolen from U.S. manufacturers.

Chinese conventional forces are moving to improve training and evaluation of ground, sea and air forces, he said. Newly published doctrine “emphasizes realistic and joint training across all domains and tasks the PLA to prepare for conflict aimed at ‘strong military opponents,’” Schriver said.

China is emphasizing civil-military integration with civilian companies entering the military market to achieve greater efficiencies, innovation and growth, he said.


Chinese sailors march.

Chinese sailors stand in formation in Beijing during a visit by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to China’s naval headquarters, Jan. 16, 2019. Richardson was on a three-day visit to Beijing and Nanjing to continue the ongoing dialogue with the chief of China’s navy and to encourage professional interactions at sea, specifically addressing risk reduction and operational safety measures to prevent unwanted and unnecessary escalation.
Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Elliott Fabrizio

The report also touches on Chinese espionage, including cybertheft, targeted investment in foreign companies with crucial technologies and its exploitation of access that Chinese nationals may have to U.S. technology. “In 2018, we saw specific efforts targeting such areas as aviation technologies and anti-submarine warfare technologies,” Schriver said.

DOD officials have said they expect China will increase its military footprint, both in and out of the Indo-Pacific region. “We believe China will seek to establish additional bases overseas as well as points for access,” Schriver said. He cited Chinese desires to establish military bases in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific.


International Status-Seeking
China has been working seriously to bulk up its worldwide status for more than 20 years. China’s economy is expanding and the Chinese Communist Party can mandate a strategy unchecked by democratic forces in the nation. Two programs — the “Made in China 2025” and “One Belt, One Road” initiatives — point to the path China would like to take to ensure it is the preeminent power in the region.

Schriver said the initiatives have caused concern in many nations that following them would mean a loss of sovereignty if the nations by into the Chinese strategy. “Chinese leaders have softened their rhetoric and sought to rebrand [the initiatives], however the fundamental goals of these programs have not changed,” he said.


The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the South China Sea.

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the South China Sea at sunset, Feb. 25, 2019. The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon
The report covers Chinese efforts in “influence operations” — Chinese efforts to influence media, culture, business, academia in other countries to accept the Chinese way.

China continues efforts to claim the South China Sea and East China Sea. They continue to claim land on its borders with India and Bhutan.

China’s attitude toward Taiwan continues to be threatening as they use elements of persuasion and coercion against the island,” Schriver said. He said this is destabilizing to the entire region.

The U.S. National Defense Strategy says the United States is in competition with China, but that does not preclude the United States and China from working together when the interests align, Schriver said. “We continue to pursue a constructive results-oriented relationship between our countries, and it is an important part of our regional strategy to have stable, constructive relations with China and a relationship which mitigates the risk of incidents or accidents.”

 

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Defense Intelligence Agency Releases Report on China Military Power
By DIA Public Affairs
Washington, D.C., Jan. 15, 2019 —

Contact:
James Kudla, james.kudla@dodiis.mil, 202-231-0818
CDR Pam Rawe, pamela.rawe@dodiis.mil, 202-231-0808

Washington, D.C. – (January 15, 2019) The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) today released China Military Power, a product that examines the core capabilities of China’s military.

This volume in DIA’s series of Military Power reports provides details on China’s defense and military goals, strategy, plans, and intentions. It examines the organization, structure and capability of the military supporting those goals, as well as the enabling infrastructure and industrial base.

“This report offers insights into the modernization of Chinese military power as it reforms from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe,” said Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr., DIA director.

Since Mao Zedong’s Communist Revolution in October 1949 brought the Chinese Communist Party to power, China has struggled to identify and align itself with its desired place in the world. Early factional struggles for control of party leadership, decades of negotiations to define territorial boundaries, and continued claims to territories not yet recovered have at times seemed at odds with the self-described nature of the Chinese as peace-loving and oriented only toward their own defense.

Chinese leaders historically have been willing to use military force against threats to their regime, whether foreign or domestic, at times preemptively. Lack of significant involvement in military operations during the last several decades has led to a sense of insecurity within the People's Liberation Army as it seeks to modernize into a great power military.

“As China continues to grow in strength and confidence, our nation's leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to U.S. interests," said Lt. Gen. Ashley. "With a deeper understanding of the military might behind China's economic and diplomatic efforts, we can provide our own national political, economic, and military leaders the widest range of options for choosing when to counter, when to encourage, and when to join with China in actions around the world.”

The Military Power series of unclassified overviews is designed to help the public achieve a deeper understanding of key challenges and threats to U.S. national security. It focuses on our near-peer competitors, and challengers such as Iran, North Korea, and terrorism.

“This product and other reports in this series are intended to inform our public, our leaders, the national security community, and partner nations about the challenges we face in the 21st century,” Lt. Gen. Ashley said.

DIA has a long history of producing comprehensive and authoritative defense intelligence overviews. In 1981, DIA published the first unclassified Soviet Military Power report, which was translated into eight languages and distributed around the world.

Two years ago, in the spirit of Soviet Military Power, DIA decided to once again produce and publish unclassified defense intelligence overviews of the major foreign military challenges we face. DIA published the first in the new series, Russia Military Power, in June 2017.


LINK to report: Military Power Publications

DIA officers are united in a common vision – to be the indispensable source of defense intelligence expertise for the nation. For more than 57 years, DIA has met the full range of security challenges faced by the United States. DIA intelligence officers operate across the globe, supporting customers from forward-deployed warfighters to national policymakers.

 

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New report explains how China thinks about information warfare
By: Mark Pomerleau
03.May.2019


The Chinese military has established a Network Systems Department, responsible for information warfare. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The Department of Defense’s annual report on China’s military and security developments provides new details about how China’s military organizes its information warfare enterprise, an area that has been of particular interest to U.S. military leaders.

In 2015, the People’s Liberation Army created the Strategic Support Force, which centralizes space, cyber, electronic warfare and psychological warfare missions under a single organization. The Chinese have taken the view, according to the DoD and other outside national security experts, that information dominance is key to winning conflicts. This could be done by denying or disrupting the use of communications equipment of its competitors.

The 2019 edition of report, released May 2, expands on last year’s version and outlines the Chinese Network Systems Department, one of two deputy theater command level departments within the Strategic Support Force responsible for information operations.

“The SSF Network Systems Department is responsible for information warfare with a mission set that includes cyberwarfare, technical reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and psychological warfare,” the report read. “By placing these missions under the same organizational umbrella, China seeks to remedy the operational coordination challenges that hindered information sharing under the pre-reform organizational structure.”

As described in previous Pentagon assessments, Chinese military leaders hope to use these so-called non-kinetic weapons in concert with kinetic weapons to push adversaries farther away from its shores and assets.

“In addition to strike, air and missile defense, anti-surface, and anti-submarine capabilities improvements, China is focusing on information, cyber, and space and counterspace operations,” the report said of China’s anti-access/area denial efforts. This concept aims to keep enemies at bay by extending defenses through long range missiles and advanced detection measures, which in turn make it difficult for enemies to penetrate territorial zones.

Cyber theft and collective strategic importance
This year’s report includes two subtle changes from last year’s edition regarding China’s cyber activities directed at the Department of Defense.
While last year’s report documents China’s continued targeting of U.S. diplomatic, economic, academic, and defense industrial base sectors to support intelligence collection, the latest edition points out that China’s exfiltration of sensitive military information from the defense industrial base could allow it to gain a military advantage.

In recent years, China has been accused of leading major hacks on defense contractors and the U.S. Navy, leading an internal review by the Navy to assert that both groups are "under cyber siege,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Additionally, this year’s report points out that taken together, the cyber-enabled campaigns threatened to erode military advantages, a trope often heralded by top leaders.

New strategies and approaches from the U.S. military seek to be more assertive in the defense of U.S. interests from such cyber probes.

 

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Editorial: Let these Pentagon leaders do their job
By: Jill Aitoro
03.May.2019


Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan at the Pentagon on April 2, 2019. ( Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/DoD)

WASHINGTON — I’m going to start by stating the obvious: Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was nominated for a Pentagon post (deputy secretary at that point) because of his industry experience.

And while we’re at it, so was Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord. And so was Army Secretary Mark Esper, and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood. And there are others that I’m forgetting.

They were all nominated because of their industry experience. We all know this. So can we just please allow them to do their jobs?
As a reminder, part of the reason we all know about their industry experience is because the nominations were dissected on the Hill, among the think tank community, watchdog groups and, yes, in the media.

And appropriately so. The risk of Pentagon leadership coming from top defense companies is favoritism, either for a particular company or for the industrial base at large. That risk, or the potential of a conflict of interest, is hard to ignore. During Shanahan’s nomination hearing in 2017, then-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain said it this way: “I’m not overjoyed that you came from one of the five corporations that receive 90 percent of the taxpayers’ dollars. I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse.”

Fair.

But remember: they were all appointed. Quite easily, in fact. All of those skeptics on the Hill, McCain included, accepted what was fed to them, as well as to the think tanks and to the watchdog groups and to the media — assurances that the proper safeguards were in place, that firewalls would prevent handing out favors.

And for almost two years, we haven’t heard much to lead anyone to believe that those safeguards weren’t serving their purpose.

But then came murmurings about Shanahan’s likely nomination to defense secretary. People pointed to all the recent wins for his former employer, Boeing. They talked of an investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general that some heard was underway. And they were right. We all waited to hear what would come of it.

And we learned he was cleared. But then came the report.

Overshadowing the fact that 32 witnesses had no concerns regarding Shanahan’s adherence to his ethical obligations was the fact that one did — Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. We heard about her concern that Shanahan’s office had received a copy of her memo related to the KC-46 (the IG report said it didn’t appear he had read it). We heard about her “concern that

Mr. Shanahan or his staff may have created the appearance of favoritism” for Boeing.

To be clear, she didn’t say there was favoritism. Just that it might have seemed that way. None of the concerns noted in the report appear to have any merit in fact — at least not to the IG.

She also said Shanahan may have said, “'We would never have done it this way. Or we wouldn’t do it this way,'” adding: “It was more comparing his experience and criticizing a contractor that he felt wasn’t getting the supply chain right.”

And that’s a bad thing?

As I said before, acting Defense Secretary Shanahan was brought to the Pentagon because of his industry experience. That experience could and should provide valuable insight into a number of areas that are forever challenging the department — from gaps in the supply chain, to flaws in how procurement programs are structured, to how contractors work together on programs, to best practices in trimming overhead in manufacturing. And, yes, it means comparing what he sees now to how he saw it work (or fail) in his prior life.

Proper oversight is important. If concerns were voiced, an investigation was appropriate. But if government is going to overly restrict these individuals from tapping their expertise or create proverbial muzzles that prevent or dissuade them from performing, then why are they there in the first place?

 

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McConville picks up torch in race to modernize Army, warns Congress not to mess with budget
By: Jen Judson  
03.May.2019

Gen. James McConville, the Army's vice chief of staff, played a key role in developing Army Futures Command, which is tasked with modernizing sustainment technology. (Spc. Markus Bowling/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON — Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville breezed through his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing May 2 for the position of Army chief of staff, answering a variety of questions that showed he’s picking up the torch in the service’s race to modernize the force.

This comes as no surprise, as he’s been at the table for all the major, transformative changes the Army has made in the past several years. He also has contributed to large and small decisions across all of the service’s programs by taking part in extensive, deep dives into portfolios to make sure efforts align with the Army’s goal to have a fully modernized force by 2028.

But McConville stressed the Army can’t accomplish any of that with an unpredictable budget — if the government relapses into continuing resolutions or sequestration.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., asked McConville what would happen to the Army if budget caps kicked back in, cutting defense programs by 13 percent, which would translate to the Defense Department having to operate at $71 billion below fiscal 2019 funding levels.

“It would be devastating to the United States Army,” he said. “I think we’ve made tremendous gains over the past two and a half years.

"We are at a critical point in modernization where we are starting to bring on systems which we believe we must have in great power competition and to avoid great power conflict,” McConville said, adding the Army would have to make cuts or stop growing the force and that it would affect the overall quality of life for soldiers and their families.

“We need the budget and we need the budget we requested,” he said.

Should Congress fail to pass an FY20 budget on time and instead adopt a continuing resolution, McConville said about 85 modernization programs would be unable to start.

The Army is undertaking ambitious modernization efforts through the new four-star-led Army Futures Command, which is taking on capabilities development in long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. Many of these efforts will kick off major prototyping efforts in the next year.

McConville added there are 33 production line increases planned in FY20 for current weapons systems that won’t get those increases, and commands will have to slow down training to hedge against funding uncertainty.

This means readiness of the present force will suffer, as will the Army’s future readiness, he said.

This year, the Defense Department shifted $164 billion of defense spending in its FY20 request into its overseas contingency operations account to stay within the statutory budget cap level of $576 billion. This move was met with resistance by House Democrats, who blasted what they view as an accounting stunt during a May 1 hearing in a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

According to McConville’s answers to prepared policy questions distributed at the hearing, should OCO funding not be available as part of the Army’s budget, it would “be catastrophic to the Army’s readiness and modernization efforts.”

Without going into detail, he wrote that if forced to make cuts in FY20 due to a lack of OCO funding, the Army would have to “reduce training, slow modernization efforts, decrease quality of life initiatives at installations, and reduce end strength, ultimately resulting in reversing our readiness gains over the last three years and the inability to meet National Defense Strategy requirements at acceptable risk.”

McConville advocated for a variety of modernization programs during the hearing, such as the Army’s No. 1 modernization priority, long-range precision fires. He said if the Army sticks to LRPF efforts underway and stays on track, then “future chiefs will no longer have to say they are outgunned or out-ranged in the future.”

McConville’s nomination will now be forwarded for consideration by the full Senate.

 

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US operations in Afghanistan caused 134 civilian casualties in 2018, says Pentagon
by Gabriel Dominguez, London
03 May 2019

US military operations in Afghanistan caused 134 civilian casualties in 2018, according to a report published on 2 May by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

A total of 76 civilians were killed and 58 injured during missions conducted as part of Operation ‘Freedom’s Sentinel’ and those in support of the NATO-led ‘Resolute Support’ mission, according to DoD data.

The vast majority (70) of those killed died as a result of aerial operations with the remaining six dying as a result of ground missions.

The Pentagon said that US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) conducted counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), and associated militant groups to “prevent their resurgence and ability to plan and execute external attacks”.

 

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Pentagon: Chinese military growing fast to challenge U.S. military superiority
By Nicholas Sakelaris
MAY 3, 2019

The Chinese military is growing rapidly to counter U.S. superiority, a new report from the Pentagon said. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

May 3 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched icebreakers and civilian research stations in Iceland and Norway that could be precursors for a fleet of nuclear-armed submarines to the Arctic region, the Pentagon said in its annual report on China.

China's military is growing rapidly as part of its goal of becoming a "near-Arctic state" with control of the "Polar Silk Road," the Pentagon report said. The report mentions the word "Arctic" 21 times -- last year's report mentioned it one time.

The push to military modernization is expected to be complete by 2035 with a "world-class" force by 2049. That includes an aircraft carrier fleet that's built domestically and a hypersonic glide vehicle. The country has one aircraft carrier in operation, the Liaoning.

Chinese "ground, naval, air and missile forces are increasingly able to project power" and "contest U.S. military superiority" in the region, the report said.

China has improved its ability to conduct complex joint operations to counter the United States. Beijing's espionage against the United States and the defense industry has focused on aviation technology and antisubmarine warfare. China can also operate at longer ranges away from the mainland.

The report warns that Chinese citizens will use "coercion and blackmail" to advance China's interests while military units also "conduct clandestine and overt intelligence collection."

China placed anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on Spratly Island in the South China Sea, despite claims that it won't "pursue militarization" of that area. China was excluded from naval war exercises because of the deployment last year.

China is also increasing sales of its drones to countries like Burma, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. China has "little competition" for these sales.

This latest report comes as the Trump administration continues to push for a new trade deal with China. Right now, both sides have placed tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods.

 

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How the Space Force might impact Navy and Marine Corps personnel
By: Valerie Insinna  
06-May-2019


A U.S. Navy communications satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. The MUOS 4 satellite was designed to bring new global communications capabilities to mobile military forces. (Courtesy of United Launch Alliance)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the Pentagon considers which military personnel could become part of the new U.S. Space Force, leaders with the Navy and Marine Corps have expressed confidence troops will continue to execute the space mission no matter the service to which they’re assigned.

“With regard to where our personnel are at, I can’t speak to what’s on their mind except that I know that interacting with our space operators, they’re dedicated to the mission,” Rear Adm. Christian Becker, head of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said during a May 6 panel at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference.

“I know within the services, the dedication and passion of our space professionals will not alter. They’ll deliver on a mission call,” Becker added.

Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock, the Marine Corps’ director of command, control, communications and computers, doubled down on that sentiment.

“The folks that we have in this space are passionate and committed to the mission, so as soon as they get the mission, whatever you tell them to do, they’ll salute and they’ll deliver,” she said.

The establishment of a Space Force is the most visible element of a large-scale reorganization of the military’s space enterprise currently under debate within the Defense Department and Congress. While only Congress can create a new branch of the military, President Donald Trump has signed off on the establishment of U.S. Space Command, a new unified combatant command that will oversee space operations.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is leading an effort to create a detailed implementation plan for the Space Force so that the service — which will initially reside under the Department of the Air Force — can be stood up within a matter of years.

The establishment of a Space Force headquarters is planned for fiscal 2020, and billets will be transferred to the new service in the following years. By FY24, the Space Force will be comprised of about 15,000 personnel, according to the Pentagon’s strategic overview, which did not provide a service-by-service breakdown.

The Marine Corps and Navy are providing input on the detailed Space Force implementation plan, Mahlock and Becker said.

However, Becker cited an aspect of how the Navy organizes its space personnel that could complicate the decision on whether to redirect those billets toward the Space Force.

“Our officers and sailors that are involved in the mission areas that touch on space are also very involved in other mission areas,” he said. For example, a space acquisition officer might also have in-depth knowledge about aerospace engineering or information warfare.

“In the acquisition of space-based capabilities, they bring their knowledge and capabilities and their strengths to that acquisition fight, and then they bring what they had gained from the space acquisition fight back to delivering naval capabilities,” he said. “So it is much more of a broad base of mission area for our folks, particularly in the acquisition domain.”

Mahlock said the reorganization of the space enterprise — especially the establishment of U.S. Space Command — could provide an opportunity for the Marine Corps to be “really vocal" about what the Marine air-ground task force “can do in that global fight.”

However, she acknowledged that the Marine Corps, like its sister services, is still figuring out how to develop and retain the “exquisite talent” that is in the space-based force.

 

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The Navy’s top officer wants you to stop counting his ships
By: David B. Larter  
06-May-2019

The John C. Stennis strike group conducts a replenishment at sea. (MC1 Bryan Niegel/U.S. Navy)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Navy’s top officer wants people to stop thinking about thesize of the fleet in terms of how many ships it has, and instead start thinking about what those ships can do.

Asked whether he thought unmanned ships would ultimately count against the Navy’s battle force of ships, which now stands at 289, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said he’d like to move away from thinking in terms of ship count.

“It’s kind of a theoretical discussion,” Richardson said. “The thing that really matters is how much naval power do those platforms deliver. That’s the thing we’re after, I’m not so caught up in what counts against the battle force.

“Because if that platform, manned or unmanned, delivers a requisite amount of naval power that’s available and assignable by the theater commander, then OK, that contributes to naval power.”

The distinction may seem like an exercise in semantics, but for Congress, the number of ships in the fleet has always been a useful metric when discussing the need for a larger or smaller Navy. Even President Ronald Reagan made a specific ship count — 600 ships — an organizing goal and rallying cry.

Today, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have made the Navy’s current force-structure assessment goal of 355 ships a focal point of their efforts.

Going after a concept like “total naval power” is somewhat more abstract and difficult to fit on a bumper sticker. However, the danger of chasing ship counts is that it could drive the Navy toward buying platforms it doesn’t need to meet a specific number, Richardson said.

“We have to be very careful to make sure that we’re not constructing something that counts on a tally but doesn’t contribute to naval power,” Richardson said. “At the end of the day, the real metric is power.”

The question will become relevant as the Navy prepares to roll out its force structure assessment later this year, which service leaders have intimated will likely grow the number of ships it needs to support the National Defense Strategy. Richardson’s answer represents a view widely held inside the Navy: that simply counting hulls is inadequate.

However, others have argued that quantity has a quality of its own, and that for a variety of demands placed on the fleet outside of being able to fight and win a war — presence, training with partners and freedom of navigation operations, to name a few — at some point the service will need enough hulls to fulfill the mission.

Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with Telemus Group, has argued for years that numbers are critical to the Navy’s role in preserving the peace. Citing the 2007 maritime strategy, Hendrix said numbers matter.

“In that strategy they found that preserving the peace was at least as important a mission as winning the war,” Hendrix said. “This idea of peacetime presence is crucial, and capacity is very critical in the peace preservation mission. You can’t’ surge trust and you certainly can’t be virtually present.”

 

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NORTHCOM: Arctic now America’s ‘first line of defense’
By: Kyle Rempfer  
06-May-2019

Coast Guard Diver 1st Class Dylan Smith, assigned to Regional Dive Locker West, dives into a water hole during a torpedo exercise in the Arctic Circle in support of Ice Exercise 2018. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton/Navy)

WASHINGTON — In order to operate in the Arctic, the U.S. military must spend more money on joint training and cold weather technology and more time on Alaska’s ranges and working with Native American tribes, according to defense officials.

U.S. defense officials announced at the Sea Air Space forum here on Monday that September Arctic sea ice is receding at a rate of roughly 13 percent per decade. That presents economic opportunities for nations with coastlines that hug the region but also competition from rivals.

Russian forces are projecting power within the Arctic, operating the world’s largest icebreaker fleet while building out air bases, sea ports, weapons and domain awareness tools to operate there.

China also has declared itself a “near-Arctic state" as it angles for a share of the trillions of dollars to be made off minerals, natural gas, ocean fisheries and trade routes in the region.

“I’m not sure that’s even a defined term,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said of China’s self-designated title.

O’Shaughnessy, who helms both U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said that enforcing a “rules-based international order” is at the forefront of U.S. policy. But the security implications of a warming Arctic are clear: the U.S. homeland is no longer a sanctuary.

“The Arctic is the first line of defense,” O’Shaughnessy said.

While the U.S. Coast Guard continues to invest in a new icebreaker fleet, defense officials say more must be done to cement America’s place in the Arctic.

Exercises like NATO’s Trident Juncture — involving 50,000 troops, 150 aircraft, 65 ships and 10,000 vehicles — gave a taste of the frigid challenges the alliance would face should a northern member, like Norway, be invaded.

During that autumn training operation, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman became the first U.S. Navy flattop in nearly three decades to sail north of the Arctic Circle for an extended period of time.

Waging war in the Arctic will also require troops capable of conducting mountain terrain analysis, cold-weather operations, land navigation in the alpine wilderness and rock climbing, among other skills.

Aircraft crews will need to understand and prepare for cold-weather flight, not to mention the strain that ice, cold and high latitudes put on airframes.

And the armed forces must collaborate with those who have lived in the region for generations — especially the Alaska Federation of Natives, or AFN, the largest statewide Native organization, according to O’Shaughnessy and other defense leaders.

“We need them. I need to tap into that local knowledge," said Navy Rear Adm. John Okon, commander of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

“Leveraging indigenous people’s knowledge to operate up there is critical for us.”

Native Alaskans have an acute understanding of ice-flow, melting conditions and shifting weather patterns, Okon said.

Tapping into that knowledge will be critical because the region remains an operational enigma for much of the military, he added.

Okon warned that the state of weather observation in the Arctic today is comparable to that across the continental United States during World War I.

“We’re a hundred years behind understanding the conditions of where we’ll have to defend the homeland and our partners,” Okon said.

While computer models can map weather patterns, the military needs to make those models reliable by collecting detailed observations at sites across the Arctic.

“We’re operating in the blind," Okon said, and that’s a problem because the “Arctic is harsher than any other place on Earth, under, on or above the sea."

Temporal conditions make predicting weather tricky and the lack of accurate navigation charts complicate operations even more, he warned.

American efforts to shore up decades of Arctic inattention come amid growing Russian influence in the region.

Moscow’s forces already operate across the Bering Strait at Kotelny Island’s Northern Clover military base.

The installation brims with coastal defense missile systems and a cold-weather version of Pantsir medium-range surface-to-air missiles.

Russian forces are preparing to monitor airspace and secure the Northern Sea Route, which has the potential to turn the Arctic into a geostrategic thoroughfare on par with the Strait of Malacca — a major shipping channel connecting the Indian and Pacific oceans — and the Suez Canal, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Officials said that Pentagon planners contemplating 21st century operations in the Arctic must confront challenges unique to the region.

For example, while America’s military embraces autonomous vehicles, those systems are limited in the Arctic by a lack of persistent operations and high costs to create and maintain them.

New technology deployed to the region must be reliable, affordable and allow for persistent operations, they said, but a major limitation remains the duration of battery power in cold conditions.

 

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The US Navy’s unmanned dream: A common control system
By: David B. Larter  
06-May-2019

An MQ-8C Fire Scout is chained to the flight deck of the Independence-class littoral combat ship Coronado. (U.S. Navy)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The U.S. Navy’s growing and increasingly diverse portfolio of unmanned systems is creating a jumble of control systems, creating problems for a force that hopes robot ships, aircraft and submarines will help it regain a significant advantage over rivals China and Russia.

One significant issue is having to train sailors on a number of different systems, which can prove time-consuming, inefficient and expensive.

“From a manned-machine teaming and sailor-integration perspective, we need a portfolio of systems to do a wide variety of things,” said Capt. Pete Small, the head of unmanned maritime systems at Naval Sea Systems Command. “We can’t bring a different interface for each platform to our sailors — from a training perspective but also from an integration perspective.

“We might have a destroyer that needs to operate an [unmanned surface vessel] and an [unmanned underwater vehicle] and they all need to be linked back to a shore command center. So we’ve got to have common communications protocols to make that all happen, and we want to reduce the burden on sailors to go do that.”

That’s driving the Navy toward a goal of having one control system to run all the unmanned platforms in the service’s portfolio: a goal that is a good ways away, Small said.

The end state is — future state nirvana — would be one set of software that you could do it all on,” he said. “I think that’s a faraway vision. And the challenges are every unmanned system is a little bit different and has its own requirements. And each of the integration points — a destroyer, a shore base or a submarine — has slightly different integration requirements as well.

“But the vision is that we can enjoy commonality as much as possible and share pieces of software wherever possible.”

The effort mirrors a similar endeavor in the surface Navy to develop a single combat system that controls every ship’s systems.

The goal here is that if a sailor who is trained on a big-deck amphibious ship transfers to a destroyer, no extra training will be necessary to run the equipment on the destroyer.

“That’s an imperative going forward — we have to get to one, integrated combat system,” Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, the chief of naval operations’ director of surface warfare, said in a December interview at the Pentagon with Defense News.


 

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Carrier strike force heading to the Middle East to counter Iran threats
By Nicholas Sakelaris
MAY 6, 2019

An aerial view of the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Abraham Lincoln, which are expected to meet in the Persian Gulf in response to Iranian threats. Photo by Kenneth Abbate/U.S. Navy | License Photo


May 6 (UPI) -- The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are being deployed to the Middle East in response to threats to U.S. troops by Iran or their allies, American government officials said.

The United States is responding to "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings," White House national security adviser John Bolton said. He didn't provide details but said the United States wants to send a "clear, unmistakable" message to Iran that "unrelenting force" would meet any attacks against U.S. troops or allies.

"The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the regular Iranian forces," Bolton said.

A Defense Department official told CBS News that U.S. intelligence has detected a "number of preparations for possible attack" on land and at sea.

"There is more than one avenue of attack or possible attack that we're tracking ... This has been moving pretty fast today (Sunday)," the official said.

In addition to the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, the strike force includes the guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and destroyers from the Destroyer Squadron 2. The group left the Naval Station Norfolk on April 1. The USS John Stennis aircraft carrier and its associated strike group has already been in the Persian Gulf since March.

Tensions with Iran have skyrocketed in the last week since the Trump administration ended waivers that allowed some countries to continue buying Iranian crude oil despite U.S. sanctions. That means China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey can no longer buy crude oil from Iran, putting increased pressure on Tehran.

The United States also officially designated the IRGC as a terrorist group recently, which prompted Iran to turn around and name U.S. forces as terrorists as well. It's been a year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike force deployment has been in the works for a little while.

"It is absolutely the case that we have seen escalatory actions from the Iranians and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests," Pompeo said. "If these actions take place, if they do by some third-party proxy, a militia group, Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranian leadership directly responsible for that."

 

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CNO: Navy's Response to Iran Proves New Unpredictable Deployment Model Works
6 May 2019
Military.com | By Gina Harkins
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Strait of Gibraltar, entering the Mediterranean Sea as it continues operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clint Davis)

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the Strait of Gibraltar, entering the Mediterranean Sea as it continues operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clint Davis)

The Navy's quick response to "troubling and escalatory" warnings from Iran shows a new deployment model meant to keep adversaries guessing is working, the service's top admiral said Monday.

The Abraham Lincoln Strike Group was conducting training exercises in Europe during a planned deployment when it was ordered to pivot toward the Middle East, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at the annual Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington.

"I find it very encouraging that while the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group was out exercising in the European theater ... and national leadership requires, requests or orders that force package to go to a different theater, it's just a matter of … very fluidly and dynamically getting all of that power to move to that theater," he said.

The model, called dynamic force employment, was introduced in last year's National Defense Strategy. It calls for less predictable maneuvering and posturing "to shape proactively the strategic environment," the strategy states.

Moving the strike group out of the Mediterranean Sea and toward the Middle East came in response to "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran, John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, said in a statement. An official told The Associated Press on Sunday that U.S. troops at sea and on land were believed to be the potential targets.

"The United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force," Bolton wrote.

The sea services in particular are well-suited for quick response, Richardson said. Strike groups, amphibious ready groups and Coast Guard cutters are "maneuver forces by design."

"They're designed to move around the globe very fluidly in response to changing security situations," he said.

This isn't the first time the Navy has used the dynamic force employment model. Last year, the Harry S. Truman Strike Group returned to its homeport in Virginia about five weeks after it deployed -- a big change from traditional seven-month deployments. It later deployed again after about three months at home.

 

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