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February 6 2016

February 8, 2016





6 February 2016


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China Reorganizing Military to Close Gap with US

Stars and Stripes | Jan 31, 2016 | by Wyatt Olson


China’s armed forces are undergoing a sweeping five-year reorganization aimed at creating central control over the military’s nearly autonomous branches and creating a more lethal fighting force to close the gap with US capabilities, analysts say.

The restructuring is the most profound undertaken since the 1950s when Soviet advisers helped modernize the nation’s post-civil war military, changes that will likely challenge long-held assumptions by the Pentagon, according to David M. Finkelstein, director of the China Studies division of CNA, a Washington, D.C.,-based research center.

The reorganization, which officially launched Jan. 1, will fundamentally redefine the roles, missions and authorities among the services — particularly the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA — and the Central Military Command, Finkelstein wrote in a paper released Friday.

The changes include disbanding the country’s seven military regions and replacing them with joint-warfighting commands in charge of “war zones” or “theaters of operation.” Also newly formed will be the PLA Rocket Force, which will be responsible for the nation’s nuclear and conventional missiles.

“Should the proposed reforms be successfully implemented, the PLA will emerge as a much more capable, lethal and externally oriented fighting force,” concluded a status report on the US rebalance to the Pacific by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank.

While the branches of the US military have a certain degree of autonomy, China’s services have grown increasingly independent and even run their own moneymaking industries. There have long been concerns about the risk a major conflict could be set off by a miscalculation from a Chinese commander making decisions with little knowledge or control from Beijing — particularly during frequent confrontations over disputed islands in the South and East China seas.

Although much remains vague about how the restructuring will take place, China’s civilian and military leaders have recognized that its armed forces lag behind the US military in important aspects.

The CSIS report said the PLA’s assessment of the Chinese military’s actual warfighting capability “remains quite negative.” The PLA has argued in published comments that its current command structure, modes of training, command-and-control systems and modes of operation are insufficient for modern warfare.

China’s current national command structure dates back to 1985, when it viewed the neighboring Soviet Union as the most likely threat.

“That structure has little inherent capacity for joint service integration and expeditionary operations; in fact, it is a key impediment,” the CSIS report said.

The United States took a major step ahead in integrating leadership of the services when President Ronald Reagan signed the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. The reform centralized military advice in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs instead of the service chiefs.

This appears to be the PLA’s own “Goldwater-Nichols moment,” Finkelstein wrote.

The current restructuring appears to be part of a larger political agenda masterminded by President Xi Jinping, who assumed office in late 2012. But while Xi had “undoubtedly approved the major contours” of the restructuring, Finkelstein wrote that he believed the essence of military reform “could only have come from within the PLA itself,” from “the professionals who have seen the need for change for some time.”

The reorganization carries political, institutional and operational mandates for the military.

Politically, Xi appears to be trying to make the military more “red” by re-concentrating power and authority over the armed forces by the Central Military Commission, which Xi chairs, Finkelstein wrote. The military commission is an organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Unyielding party control of the PLA “is viewed as a prerequisite for pushing through this reorganization and reform because so many institutional and personal interests throughout the military are going to be adversely affected,” Finkelstein wrote.

Many details about how the reform will look institutionally are unknown, but changes are expected to the logistics system, armaments, research and development, balance of forces among services, ratio of officers to enlisted personnel, location of force deployments, the military justice system and many other realms.

A new, independent layer of oversight over the PLA is intended to reduce the “rampant corruption across the officer corps,” Finkelstein wrote.

At the core of the operational reform will be streamlining command-and-control authority to better conduct “modern, information-intensive joint campaigns — especially in the maritime-aerospace battlespace domains, which are the domains in which PLA strategists believe China’s most pressing operational contingencies reside,” Finkelstein wrote.

To that end, China’s seven long-standing military regions will be dissolved, replaced by “war zones” or “theaters of command.” Warfighting command and control will go directly from those zones to the Central Military Commission, Finkelstein wrote.

There have been no official announcements about how many new theaters will be created.

Although the PLA Rocket Force will oversee the country’s nuclear and convention missiles, it remains unclear whether that responsibility includes the nuclear assets of the PLA Air Force and PLA Navy, Finkelstein wrote.

According to Xinhua, China’s state news agency, Xi said Jan. 1 that the mission of the rocket force was in part to “strengthen medium- and long-range precision strike force building, increase strategic checks and balance capability and strive to build a powerful modernized rocket force.”

The vast reorganization carries risk, particularly in light of China’s current woes with a plunging stock market and slowing economy. Party officials have made economic progress the linchpin of its governing legitimacy.

The military reforms will leave about 300,000 people out of jobs, and local economies could be affected as military regions are stood down, Finkelstein wrote.

The reorganization is slated to be complete by 2020, but it could take years longer to make such a new system operate efficiently, he wrote.

During the five-year phase-in period, the Pentagon will have to assess changes to and creation of counterparts between the two armed forces and whether ongoing programs and exchanges will be affected, he wrote.


GAO: $5.7B Einstein cyber program isn’t smart enough yet

Aaron Boyd, Federal TImes 2:45 p.m. EST January 29, 2016


The Department of Homeland Security is charged with protecting federal networks and has spent more than $1.2 billion since 2009 to build the Einstein cybersecurity program and deploy it across the government. Despite this spending, the program is failing to prevent breaches and meet its other objectives, according to a recent review by the Government Accountability Office.

The Einstein program — a set of cybersecurity tools managed by the National Cybersecurity Protection System — is supposed to give agencies four capabilities: intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, analytics and information sharing. However, the program isn’t sufficiently living up to those goals.

“While NCPS’s ability to detect and prevent intrusions, analyze network data and share information is useful, its capabilities are limited,” the report states. “For example, NCPS detects signature-based anomalies but does not employ other, more complex methodologies and cannot detect anomalies in certain types of traffic.”

Not only that, the report continues, but the capabilities that are in use only block “a limited subset of network traffic” and the metrics put in place to gauge the progress of the program do not “provide insight into the value derived from the functions of the system.”

While the program has accrued $1.2 billion in expenses to-date, the total lifecycle cost is expected to rise to $5.7 billion by 2018.

GAO’s review looked at the top 23 agencies and the degree to which they use NCPS capabilities. IT then compared how those programs and technologies are being deployed and whether they are accomplishing the four goals of the program.

The report also analyzed whether DHS’s capabilities actually match up with accepted best practices in cybersecurity.

GAO found the Einstein program was at least partially failing on each of the four target capabilities:

Intrusion Detection: NCPS provides DHS with a limited ability to detect potentially malicious activity entering and exiting computer networks at federal agencies. Specifically, NCPS compares network traffic to known patterns of malicious data – or “signatures” – but does not detect deviations from predefined baselines of normal network behavior. In addition, NCPS does not monitor several types of network traffic and its signatures do not address threats that exploit many common security vulnerabilities and thus may be less effective.

Intrusion Prevention: The capability of NCPS to prevent intrusions (e.g., blocking an email determined to be malicious) is limited to the types of network traffic that it monitors. For example, the intrusion prevention function monitors and blocks email. However, it does not address malicious content within web traffic, although DHS plans to deliver this capability in 2016.

Analytics: NCPS supports a variety of data analytical tools, including a centralized platform for aggregating data and a capability for analyzing the characteristics of malicious code. In addition, DHS has further enhancements to this capability planned through 2018.

Information Sharing: DHS has yet to develop most of the planned functionality for NCPS’s information sharing capability and requirements were only recently approved. Moreover, agencies and DHS did not always agree about whether notifications of potentially malicious activity had been sent or received and agencies had mixed views about the usefulness of these notifications. Further, DHS did not always solicit — and agencies did not always provide — feedback on them

Possibly more concerning is the fact that while all 23 civilian CFO Act agencies are routing traffic through NCPS sensors according to DHS, Nation Security Deployment documents showed that only five agencies are actually using the intrusion prevention tools.

GAO made nine recommendations, all of which DHS concurred with. The department also provided auditors with detailed plans to address eight of the recommendations.

The new report released on Jan. 28 is based on a more comprehensive November 2015 review that was classified For Official Use Only.



SpaceX And Russia Change The Rules Of The Military Launch Market


It’s been a tough week for United Launch Alliance (ULA). A hearing last Wednesday brought news of a potential ban on Russian made RD-180 engines which ULA requires for their Atlas V rocket. To make matters worse, the U.S. Air Force is also considering ending an $800 million-per-year contract with the company.

This bad news actually works in favor for SpaceX, who is now certified to compete with ULA for high-budget military launches from the Air Force. In fact, SpaceX is the only other company capable of competing with ULA for these launch contracts.


Removing Russia from the Military Launch Business

Last Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said that he was going to introduce legislation to reinstate a purchasing ban of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military launches.

This is a problem for ULA whose Atlas V rocket, which they use for military launches, requires a single RD-180 engine. If McCain’s ban is approved, that would leave ULA with only 9 already-purchased RD-180 engines for Air Force launch contracts.

Congress originally cut ULA’s supply to RD-180 engines back in 2014 after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. The ban was intended to reduce the United States’ reliance on Russia, especially when it came to military assets.

ULA’s RD-180 powered Atlas V launch of an Air Force GPS asset in 2014 / Image courtesy of United Launch Alliance photo/John Studwell

ULA’s RD-180 powered Atlas V launch of an Air Force GPS asset in 2014 / Image courtesy of United Launch Alliance /John Studwell

However, that ban was temporarily lifted in December when Congress enacted the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) amended the bill to lift the RD-180 ban on ULA, whose rocket facility is located in Alabama.

In Wednesday’s hearing, McCain argued that the ban should be reinstated.

But the situation is complicated. The Air Force wants reliable access to space, but Congress doesn’t like companies giving money to the Russians in order to do that. Unfortunately, ULA doesn’t currently have another option.

This ban could also be seen as unfairly singling out ULA since NASA continues to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

People are particularly angry about an event that happened late last year. In November, the Air Force opened up a competition for the 2018 launch of their GPS 3 mission.

At the time, the original purchasing ban on RD-180 engines was in effect and ULA declined to bid for the contract. ULA stated that, with the purchasing ban, they couldn’t guarantee an Atlas V rocket would be available when 2018 rolled around.

That Air Force contract is now expected to go to the only other viable option: SpaceX.

Some have suggested that this was a move by ULA to pressure the government into freeing up more RD-180 procurements. The reasoning behind this is that ULA has a longer and better track record for successful launches than SpaceX and it would be in the government’s best interest to maintain ULA as military launch provider.


Questioning a Decade-Long $800 Million Annual Contract

For the past decade, ULA has enjoyed a monopoly on Air Force military launches. Because they were the only means to get military assets into space, the Air Force needed a way to ensure that ULA could maintain that capability at all times. Their answer was an $800 million annual “launch capability contract,” which was set to run through 2019.

When ULA opted not to bid in the Air Force’s November competition, some started to question the purpose of the $800 million capability contract. In fact, during Wednesday’s hearing, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said that they were going to study the implications of ending the $800 million contract early.

This contract was already a point of controversy after SpaceX received certification to join the military launch market back in May of 2015, ending ULA’s decade-long monopoly. The question was, if SpaceX can maintain the necessary launch capabilities without a nearly billion dollar contract, why should taxpayers continue to pay ULA $800 million each year?


Competition Between ULA and SpaceX Moving Forward

Recent developments in Russia and the fact that ULA no longer holds a monopoly are the two factors that have turned the military launch market on its head. With two players now in the game, decade-long policies and contracts are getting called into question.

ULA has, however, taken steps to move away from the RD-180 engine. In September of 2014, the company partnered with Blue Origin to jointly develop a new U.S. made rocket engine. The engine is estimated to take 4 years to develop and be launch-ready in 2019.

But will that be soon enough?

Because of their pristine launch reliability record, ULA has always been an attractive launch provider for the Air Force. But today, ULA’s reliance on RD-180 engines has proven to be their greatest weakness, and SpaceX’s greatest asset.

Defense Department researchers push plan aimed at avoiding worldwide GPS meltdown

By: Tom Roeder

February 1, 2016


The Defense Department’s top researchers want ground-based miniature atomic clocks to avert a global catastrophe if the orbiting timepieces that make up the Colorado Springs-based Global Positioning System stop ticking.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a crash program to invent miniature advanced atomic clocks that reflects growing worries about the vulnerability of Air Force Space Command’s GPS satellites.

“Among their myriad potential advantages, better clocks could reduce one of the more worrisome modern-day national security vulnerabilities: a deep and growing dependence on the Global Positioning System,” DARPA said in a news release.

Military and civilian uses of GPS have expanded greatly since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the classified system was revealed to the world. The space-based timing signals broadcast by the 32 satellites operated by airmen at Schriever Air Force Base are used to control the globe’s financial transactions, telephone networks and the Internet in the civilian world. For the military, GPS puts bombs on target, keeps troops from getting lost and controls the growing fleet of combat drones.

In Colorado Springs, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Wes Clark oversaw development of the program in the 1970s. The use of GPS in everyday life makes it an attractive target for those who want to attack America, he said.

“Can you imagine our society today without GPS?” Clark asked. “It would pretty much be a global catastrophe.”

Over the past year, the military has shown increasing concern about the wartime vulnerability of satellites, especially GPS. In November, Space Command boss Gen. John Hyten outlined plans to deal with attacks on satellite capabilities during an interview with The Gazette.

“I never want conflict to extend into space,” Hyten said. “But we have to be able to defend ourselves.”

The Army last month ran training exercises at Fort Carson that simulated how attacks on satellites would impact troops on the ground. The Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center at Schriever is running a series of war games to show how attacks would impact military and intelligence-gathering spacecraft.

“Within 30 seconds of a GPS shutdown, a GPS receiver would only be able to specify that it was somewhere within an area the size of Washington, D.C.,” DARPA said on its website. “An hour of GPS shutdown would expand the area of uncertainty to more than the size of Montana.”

A partial defense against the loss of GPS would be small, highly accurate clocks that could keep time and allow navigation computers to keep running. The clocks envisioned by DARPA, accurate to within trillionths of a second, also would fill in for GPS signals that time telephone networks, banking systems and computer transactions.

The clocks would have to be small enough to fit on military craft and be used on the battlefield. But small and atomic clock are words not normally used together.


Schriever is home to three “rubidium fountain” clocks that are accurate within a few trillionths of a second. They are used to set the time for smaller atomic clocks on the Air Force’s GPS satellites.

“Those are some of the best-performing clocks in the world, but they fill a room,” said Robert Lutwak, who is leading DARPA’s atomic clock program. DARPA wants a clock the size of a cellphone that runs on a small battery.

Atomic clocks work by measuring the oscillations of atoms. Those oscillations can be changed by factors including gravity and temperature. That means they don’t work outside a laboratory-like environment or in the controlled world of space.

“We like to think atoms are all perfect,” said Lutwak, who holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is credited with creating the world’s best “chip-scale” atomic clock, a breakthrough that still lacks the accuracy needed for GPS failure.

DARPA says its $50 million clock program will have to overcome huge hurdles.

“Success will require record-breaking advances that counter accuracy-eroding processes in current atomic clocks, among them variations in atomic frequencies that result from temperature fluctuations and subtle frequency differences that can occur if the power shuts down and then starts up again,” DARPA said.


Carter Unveils Budget Details; Pentagon Requests $582.7 Billion

By Aaron Mehta 4 p.m. EST February 2, 2016


WASHINGTON — President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget will request $582.7 billion in funding for the Pentagon, including $71.4 billion for research and development, $7.5 billion to fight the Islamic State group, $8.1 billion for submarines, and $1.8 billion on munitions, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Tuesday morning.

In a speech previewing next week’s budget release, Carter also highlighted new technologies his department is developing to meet what he called a “major inflection point” that takes “the long view” for the Department.

The budget, Carter explained, was driven by five key factors: the rise of great powers in Russia and China, the threat of North Korea to the US and its Pacific allies, Iran’s “malign influence” against allies in the Gulf, and the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, commonly known as ISIL or ISIS.

During a Tuesday discussion outlining Pentagon budget priorities for fiscal year 2017, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that efforts by China and others to reclaim land in the South China Sea is “disruptive” to the region’s stability and economy. Video: Lars Schwetje/Defense News

“We don’t have the luxury of just one opponent, or the choice between current fights and future fights – we have to do both,” Carter said. “And that’s what our budget is designed to do.”

In other words, the budget again reflects the dual nature of the threats facing the Pentagon – both from near-peer nations such as Russia and China that require new technologies to counter, and from counterinsurgency operations.

“Key to our approach is being able to deter our most advanced competitors. We must have – and be seen to have – the ability to impose unacceptable costs on an advanced aggressor that will either dissuade them from taking provocative action, or make them deeply regret it if they do,” Carter said, adding that “In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors.”

Among the numbers put out by Carter:

•The Pentagon is allocating $7.5 billion in 2017, or 50 percent more than 2016, for the fight against ISIL.

•The Defense Department is also investing $1.8 billion in 2017 to buy more than 45,000 more precision-guided munitions, separate from the anti-ISIL funding. Although Carter did not explicitly say so, that is expected to go under the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

•The retirement of the A-10 has been deferred until 2022, when it will be replaced by squadrons of F-35A joint strike fighters coming online. The fight over the A-10 had raged through the past two budgets, with members of Congress shutting down the Air Force’s attempts at retiring the attack aircraft. By pushing the retirement to 2022 and out of the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), the Obama administration is essentially punting the retirement fight to the next administration.

•The European Reassurance Imitative (ERI), the umbrella under which funding for European support has been funneled following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, will be more than quadrupled from 2016, going from $789 million to $3.4 billion for this budget.

•For submarines, the Pentagon invests $8.1 billion in 2017, and more than $40 billion over the next five years. That buys nine Virginia-class attack submarines over the next five years, while equipping “more” with the Virginia Payload Module.

•For cyber, the department is planning to invest $7 billion in 2017 and almost $35 billion over the next five years.

•Although Carter did not offer a figure for spending on space assets, he did say the Pentagon will be spending “even more” than last year, when it offered $5 billion for new space systems.

•The budget contains what Carter called “full funding for the Afghan Security Forces,” although he did not explain what that funding requirement is.

•Carter pledged to reduce overhead by “more than $8 billion over the next five years,” savings which he pledged would be plowed back into “real capability.”

•For the second year in a row, the budget grows the research and development accounts for the department, for a total of $71.4 billion in 2017.

The last point is key if the Pentagon is to move forward with the so-called third offset technology development strategy, as acquisitions head Frank Kendall expressed at a December event.

“If you don’t do the R&D, you won’t have a product at all,” Kendall said. “It’s a fixed cost. Once you take the R&D out you are denying yourself future products, in any quantity, period.”

And the budget does feature the development of new projects, with Carter highlighting the work of the Strategic Capabilities Office, a group he created in 2012 to “re-imagine existing DoD, intelligence community, and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential opponents.”

The first piece Carter highlighted was a navigation program that featured researchers putting “the same kinds of micro-cameras and sensors that are littered throughout our smartphones today, and putting them on our Small Diameter Bombs to augment their targeting capabilities.” The goal, he said, is to create a modular kit that will work with many other payloads.

The second is focused on swarming, autonomous vehicles.

“For the air, they’ve developed micro-drones that are really fast, and really resilient – they can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats, which can network together to do all sorts of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance – including around an island, real or artificial, without putting our sailors at risk.”

Another program involves taking the projectile developed for the electromagnetic railgun and installing it on existing weapons – “including the five-inch guns at the front of every Navy destroyer, and also the hundreds of Army Paladin self-propelled howitzers” – to turn them into missile defense systems. Carter noted that this system was successfully tested on a Paladin a month ago.

Finally, Carter offered the vision of an “arsenal plane,” which takes an unnamed, older Air Force platform turns it into “a flying launch pad for all sorts of different conventional payloads. In practice, the arsenal plane will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to 5th-generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes – essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities”

Missing from Carter’s speech was a mention of the F-35, which is expected to face cuts as part of the tradeoffs to fund other priorities. He also did not mention the decision to turn the Navy’s UCLASS system into a refueling asset known as CBARS, first revealed Monday by Defense News.


Carter largely avoided talking about what trade-offs would need to be made inside the budget, but did call out a significant one: cutting the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) buy, something he described as “part of a broader effort in our budget to focus the Navy on having greater lethality and capability that can deter and defeat even the most high-end future threats.”

That move very publicly went against the wishes of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, something Carter was asked about by David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington and the event’s host, and specifically what Carter would do if the Navy goes up to the Hill to fight to replace those ships.

Pentagon Cuts LCS to 40 Ships, 1 Shipbuilder

Carter indicated he would argue for what “we, including in the Navy, think is the best balance,” while noting that he plans to increase the size of the Navy to 308 ships.

“We had to make trade-offs,” Carter acknowledged. “In each of the services, you make trade-offs, as I said, for force structure, capability investment and readiness. All three of those are important and you just have to balance – we only have so many dollars.”

Rubenstein also asked about the future of the Gerald Ford-class carrier program, which has struggled with cost overruns.

“That is a program that was undisciplined. We’re trying to wrestle that one into shape, but I’m not going to try to justify the history of the Ford-class carrier over the last 15 years or so,” Carter responded. “I think we’ll, of course, will buy more aircraft carriers in the future. I’m supposing we will, but not that way.”

Carter also said that the department has been doing a “thorough review for the last several months” on potential Goldwater-Nichols reform, and said he expects to “begin receiving recommendations on that in coming weeks and making decisions.”

Goldwater-Nichols reform is a hot topic with both the Senate and House Armed Services leadership, and Carter has been attempting to create his own slate of reforms to avoid having the changes directed to the department.




2017 defense budget losers

Mackenzie Eaglen @MEaglen

February 2, 2016 | Forbes


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s preview of the Pentagon’s forthcoming budget for fiscal year 2017 was broad on themes, but unsurprisingly short on details about which programs would get cut to pay for his new priorities. What he did reiterate was the “Third Offset” high-tech investment portfolio that Pentagon leaders are pursuing as they seek to restore rapidly declining U.S. military technological supremacy.

I’ve outlined the defense programs that Carter will likely privilege as part of this strategy — including technologies such as artificial intelligence, space and cyber capabilities, and next-generation weapons systems. But there will be victims of this priority set, too, and Carter spent only one sentence of his remarks to mention cuts to the Littoral Combat Ship.

Given that the defense budget will remain flat for the foreseeable future without congressional intervention, investments in cutting-edge technology mean taking money from elsewhere within the defense budget. Irrespective of the merits of the third offset strategy, its implementation will be costly. Given the combination of a $10 to $15 billion modernization shortfall in 2017 and a $12 to $15 billion tab spanning the next five years in third offset programs, the next defense budget will include very significant cuts to existing plans and programs.

Since there are so few new programs coming online in the defense pipeline, defense officials are also hoping to keep existing programs on track as best they can. Given the admission by Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall that the slowdowns will be “more on production than on R&D,” we can expect minor cuts to a large raft of programs and several large bill-payers, such as the Littoral Combat Ship and the F-35A. We also know that the Pentagon will not reduce force structure or readiness — though we do not yet know how fast readiness will grow, since the military is still facing a substantial training and maintenance backlog.

No matter how the budget details shake out on February 9th, there will be a zero-sum competition between existing weapons systems and third offset funding priorities. But no need to wait until then. Here are some of the likely losers this year based upon our analysis of the Pentagon’s five-year budget.


U.S. Navy & Marine Corps

Littoral Combat Ship: To help offset the high price of Secretary Carter’s naval priorities, one of the highest profile victims so far has been a reduction in the overall buy for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). In a sharply worded memo, Secretary Carter recently told the Navy Secretary to reduce the total purchase from 52 to 40 ships and down-select to just one shipyard to complete production.

According to CRS naval expert Ronald O’Rourke, the Navy will cut four LCS hulls in 2017 and 2018, which would save a little under $3 billion. The other eight hulls will be cut from the frigate variant program, slated to begin in 2019, saving between $5 and 6 billion in the mid-2020s. Absent other changes, the reduction of the programmed LCS buy by 12 ships will result in a Navy fleet size peaking at 296 ships in the mid-2020s.

CG-47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers: Though details are scant, Inside the Navy has reported that the Navy will scrap its plan to extend the life of its entire cruiser fleet. Four cruisers will have entered the service life extension program by the end of this year, but halting the program there could save the Navy a great deal of money over the next five years — though it would also necessitate an acceleration of a cruiser replacement, currently slated to begin around 2030.

F-35C Joint Strike Fighter: The Marine Corps will accelerate F-35B procurement and the Navy will buy more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets while retiring F/A-18A/C Hornet fighters more quickly relative to last year’s budget plan. Though Carter directed the Navy to add 10 F-35Cs over the next five years, the Navy had tried to reduce its F-35C buy by 21 planes — meaning that the F-35C will likely be cut down the line.

Other cuts: Yesterday, Navy officials confirmed that the Navy’s new carrier drone will not be a strike or intelligence aircraft — it will be a non-stealthy drone tanker, thus delaying the strike/intelligence variants even further. Given that the Navy will also expand its buy of the the P-8 Poseidon anti-sub aircraft, the only other possibly attractive targets for production delay are the V-22 Osprey helicopter and and E-2D Hawkeye carrier-launched airborne command-and-control plane — both of which are in multi-year procurement contracts.


U.S. Air Force

F-35A Joint Strike Fighter: The Joint Strike Fighter will not emerge unscathed from the forthcoming defense budget. While Marine Corps F-35B and Navy F-35C purchases will be accelerated, the Pentagon acquisition chief has openly admitted that the F-35 program is vulnerable to manufacturing slowdowns over five years. Expect those cuts to overwhelmingly impact the production ramp and total planned buy of the Air Force’s F-35A variant. There’s simply no comparable source of cost savings in the Defense Department.

EC-130H Compass Call: Because the Air Force has decided to delay retirement of the A-10 close air support aircraft until 2022, policymakers can expect another effort to retire at least half of the 14-aircraft EC-130H Compass Call electronic warfare fleet. Indeed, the Air Force has already leaked plans to accelerate a replacement, meaning it will probably seek to retire the fleet again in this budget.

OC(X) satellite control system: Given the high-level interest of Frank Kendall and Air Force Space Command chief General John Hyten, the 2017 request could see a cutback or even a re-compete, with widely divergent estimates about how poorly the program is doing.

Wide Field of View satellite; According to Lieutenant General Samuel Greaves, this experimental missile early-warning satellite system will be delayed for two years.

U-2: According to a recent report by Inside the Air Force, retirement of the U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance fleet will remain slated for 2019, with the RQ-4 Global Hawk program making significant strides.

Other cuts: Further, several programs due to start in 2017 could be pushed off into the future. Programs like the Air Force’s Presidential Aircraft Replacement and Combat Rescue Helicopter, each set to double to over $500 million in 2017, might be delayed or come in lower than planned — or both.


U.S. Army

Understandably, Army officials — including Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark Milley — have expressed open skepticism about the third offset strategy. Indeed, the Army stands to be a large bill-payer for these new priorities, despite its already barren procurement plans. Army military acquisition chief Lieutenant General Michael Williamson has already confirmed that the Army will seek to arrange for “proportional” cuts.

Legacy upgrades: Six of the Army’s ten largest programs are upgrades to existing systems — Abrams, Paladin, Bradley, Blackhawk, Chinook, Apache — and are therefore attractive targets for delay. While the M113 replacement (AMPV) and Humvee replacement (JLTV) could also see delays, William and other Army leaders have signaled enduring belief in the absolute necessity of these replacement programs.

Future Fighting Vehicle: The Army will delay initiating its Future Fighting Vehicle program to replace its Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to 2029 — eight years later than originally expected.

C2 systems: Additionally, the Army’s massive command-and-control portfolio is ripe for delays and reductions given its low profile and dispersed line items.

Patriot follow-on and radar: The Army will also delay initiating a program to replace the PAC-3 launcher and its associated radar.


A zero-sum fight

The fight over the US military’s modernization plans in the 2017 defense budget is one in which a gain in high-tech investments means cuts and delays to legacy programs. Without an increase in the base defense budget over the next five years — an outcome yet to be determined but a fight sure to happen — the military’s immediate needs will continue to be cannibalized by the promise of technological breakthroughs.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary could sharply redefine the Republican race, but our polling suggests a Bernie Sanders win in the Granite State won’t remake the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Despite the closeness of the Iowa caucus on Monday, Hillary Clinton’s support nationally among likely Democratic voters remains unchanged since the first debate in October, according to our latest look at the Clinton-Sanders race released Friday. Sanders, the favorite son of neighboring Vermont, is the projected winner in New Hampshire in most polls, but after that the states appear a lot harder for him to run against an establishment favorite like Clinton.

Clinton seemed receptive the other day to naming President Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court if she is elected to succeed him this fall. Only 40% of Democrats favor putting Obama on the high court, but 60% of the voters in his party say they would vote for the president’s reelection if he could legally seek a third term.

Donald Trump insists his second-place showing in the Iowa caucus isn’t bad, but perception among his fellow Republicans that he will be the party’s presidential nominee has fallen sharply in our latest Trump Change survey.

All eyes will be on Trump at tonight’s GOP debate in New Hampshire where he continues to lead the Republican pack by 10 or more points in most surveys. Rasmussen Reports will release fresh numbers from the Republican presidential race Monday morning.

If Marco Rubio can hold on to or even build on his third-place finish in Iowa, New Hampshire should weed out one or more of the other more centrist Republicans like Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina. Jeb Bush’s game plan is anyone’s guess, regardless of how he finishes, since he sits on a far bigger campaign war chest than any of his opponents – except Trump who so far has self-financed his campaign.

With just the first round of the presidential contest over, most voters still think the next occupant of the White House is likely to be a Republican.

But voters still express skepticism about the fairness of elections in this country. Just 21% believe the federal government today has the consent of the governed.

As is often the case, many of the presidential candidates claim to be running against the status quo in Washington, D.C. That’s not surprising when you consider that 81% of voters think the federal government is corrupt.

No wonder most voters, as they have in surveys for years, still prefer a smaller, less active government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger, more active one with more services and higher taxes. 

Americans do have confidence, though, in how the government responds to public health emergencies. That helps explain why they aren’t overly concerned about the rapidly spreading Zika virus.

The president visited a mosque in Baltimore, Md. this week to challenge what he considers anti-Muslim attitudes among many Americans. In a survey just before the massacre in December by radical Muslim terrorists in San Bernardino, California, 49% of U.S. voters said Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions, and 71% thought Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith

As it has every year since 2013, Obama’s monthly job approval rating improved slightly in January. His daily job approval remains in the low negative teens this week. 

Just 31%, however, think the country is heading in the right direction

In other surveys last week:

— Consumers are feeling pretty confident that they will have money left over after they’ve paid their bills this month, but they’re less sure where they are headed financially in the month to come.

— Most Americans agree that too many people are in prison today, but many also feel conditions in America’s prisons aren’t tough enough.

— Americans by a two-to-one margin  think it’s a bigger problem for U.S. law enforcement that too many criminals are set free than that too many innocent people are arrested

Sixty-three percent (63%) of black voters still believe American society is unfair and discriminatory. Just as many (61%) of whites and a plurality (45%) of other minority voters say society here is fair and decent.


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