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May 28 2016

June 6, 2016




28 May 2016


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US Air Force Can’t Afford Its Fighter Jets Past 2021

Lara Seligman, Defense News 5:12 p.m. EDT May 23, 2016


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force will not be able to afford the fighter aircraft it needs after 2021 if the service’s current budget topline doesn’t change, according to the Pentagon’s latest 30-year aviation report.

As the armed services continue to tighten their belts, the Air Force is being forced to retire more aircraft than it procures. This means that fighter aircraft inventory will take a significant hit after 2021, and will continue to erode until it reaches its lowest level in 2031, according to the Pentagon’s annual aviation, inventory and funding plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2046.

Congress last year mandated the Air Force maintain 1,900 fighter aircraft in inventory beyond 2021. But the Air Force does not have enough money to meet that requirement, according to the report. The service currently has 1,971 attack aircraft in inventory, including A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F-22s and F-35As.

The report states that the Air Force is currently planning to sunset the A-10 between FY18 and FY22, but hints that those plans “are subject to change.”

Congress is also urging the Air Force to revive Lockheed Martin’s F-22 production line. However, Air Force officials have consistently dubbed restarting the Raptor line as a nonstarter, citing the enormous cost of such a project.



Report: Western Defense Industry Future Imperiled by Local Programs

Aaron Mehta, Defense News 3:47 p.m. EDT May 24, 2016





WASHINGTON — A global push to grow domestic defense industries will have a dramatic impact on the Western defense export market over the next decade, a new report is warning.

Authored by Daniel Yoon and Doug Berenson, the report by Avascent, “Dynamics of International Military Modernization 2016,” concludes that while many challengers will emerge, the trio of Israel, South Korea and Brazil provide the most immediate threats to Western markets

Ironically, the market threat is one with its origins in Western exports, with the authors noting that “in many cases, these emerging players developed through diffused technology via prior export arrangements with Western suppliers, often through offsets requirements and domestic industry participation.”

Over the last five years, American firms have aggressively pursued foreign sales to try and offset a slowdown in US military funding. By and large American firms were successful in that strategy, the authors found, with “foreign sales have partially offset the decline in domestic demand since 2010, when only 17 percent of defense equipment manufactured in the United States was exported; by 2015, that number jumped dramatically to 34 percent.”

That plan is even more critical for the UK, Germany, France and Italy, which represent the four largest defense industrial bases in Western Europe. Those first three nations rely on exports for roughly half of their military sales, while Italy relies on exports for a stunning 82 percent of its military sales.

However, the dominance of Western exports will face challenges in the near future – with the biggest threat coming from the customers themselves.

“The growing trend of homegrown defense industries is behind much of the competitive change in the international defense market,” the authors found. “Many countries desire indigenous defense industries on strategic or economic grounds, or both. They have often nurtured these nascent industries through political protection and stringent offset requirements in deals involving foreign suppliers, often absorbing these suppliers’ technical expertise in the process.”

These measures “allowed the host countries to source increasingly from domestic producers rather than foreign ones, thus ‘crowding out’ many legacy players in that particular market,” the authors added. “Several of these industries have since even become competitive against Western exports in other markets, a trend expected to be reinforced over the next 10 years.”

So who will be the competition? Japan and India are the obvious examples, but the analysts argue neither will emerge as major exporters due to cultural reasons (Japan) and bureaucratic ones (India). Singapore and Turkey have some capabilities, but lag behind. And while Russia and China are both capable of producing high-end tech, neither nation is likely to take a huge chunk out of the markets that the Western nations currently export to.

Instead, the big challengers will come in the form of South Korea, Brazil and Israel, with each nation has its own strengths.

Israel, for example, has grown significantly in the radar, missile, and particularly unmanned system markets. Israel’s unmanned systems are already competitive with US hardware globally.

South Korea’s T-50 trainer design, as well as its upcoming indigenous fighter, could drive gains in the aerospace market, while its “ability to domestically produce advanced destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault vessels, and attack submarines will provide significant export opportunities over the next 10 years,” the authors write.

Brazil will likely lag behind those two nations, but has wisely targeted several niche markets to go after. Write the authors, “Embraer’s entry into niche regional and lower-tier markets with light attack aircraft, light transport aircraft, and low-end ISR and maritime patrol aircraft will allow it to compete in a modest manner over the next 10 years. Moreover, its partnership with Saab in the co-production of the Gripen fighter ensures an industrial connection to Western markets into the future.”


Obama promised transparency. But his administration is one of the most secretive

By Margaret Sullivan Media Columnist

May 24

Some things just aren’t cool. One of those, according to our no-drama president, is ignorance.

“It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about,” President Obama said during his recent Rutgers University commencement address. It was a swipe clearly intended for he-who-didn’t-need-to-be-named: Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president.

Okay, no argument there.

But the Obama administration itself has been part of a different know-nothing problem. It has kept the news media — and therefore the public — in the dark far too much over the past 7 1/2 years.

After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions.

That’s why I’m skeptical about the notion that Americans will soon know what they need to know about drone strikes — the targeted killings that have become a major part of the administration’s anti-terrorism effort in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

How many of the dead were terrorists or militants? How many were civilians, killed as collateral damage? The administration’s accounting — promised three years ago — will arrive when it hardly matters anymore for holding this administration accountable. But, as The Washington Post reported on Monday, it’s also going to be incomplete, omitting what has happened in Pakistan, where hundreds of strikes have taken place.

Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer for the international human rights organization known as Reprieve, made this pointed statement: “Excluding the vast majority of drone strikes from this assessment means that it will hardly be worth the paper it is printed on.” Reprieve and another British organization, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, have long challenged the administration’s accounting of drone deaths, using their own research to insist that there are far more fatalities, and a higher percentage of civilian deaths, than the U.S. government admits.

Meanwhile, the most transparent administration in history continues doing transparency its own way.

Call it Transparency Lite. On Monday, during a visit to Vietnam, the president spent some quality time with the media — in the form of Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef. A couple of years ago, he did a heavily publicized interview with the comedian Zach Galifianakis on the faux talk show “Between Two Ferns,” and last year he made a visit to podcaster Marc Maron’s garage for a chat about fatherhood and overcoming fear.

But his on-the-record interviews with hard-news, government reporters have been relatively rare — and, rather than being wide-ranging, often limited to a single subject, such as the economy.

Remarkably, Post news reporters haven’t been able to interview the president since late 2009. Think about that. The Post is, after all, perhaps the leading news outlet on national government and politics, with no in-depth, on-the-record access to the president of the United States for almost all of his two terms.

I couldn’t get anyone in the White House press office to address this, despite repeated attempts by phone and email — which possibly proves my point.

But a thorough study from Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired Towson University professor, describes the administration’s strategy. The president does plenty of interviews, she writes — far more than any other president in recent history. But these interviews are tightly controlled and targeted toward specific topics, and, it seems to me, often granted to soft questioners. (All of this is a major shift from a time when news conferences and short question-and-answer sessions allowed reporters to pursue news topics aggressively and in real time.)

Meanwhile, on media rights generally, the Obama administration hasn’t walked its talk. It has set new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information requests. And it has used an obscure federal act to prosecute leakers. It continued the punishing treatment of a National Security Agency whistleblower, Thomas Drake (dismaying new details have emerged recently in book excerpts by John Crane, a former Pentagon investigator), and threatened to send the New York Times investigative reporter James Risen to jail for his good-faith insistence on protecting his confidential source.

Promising transparency and criticizing ignorance, but delivering secrecy and opacity? That doesn’t serve the public or the democracy. And that’s deeply uncool.



Senate Appropriations Committee OKs DoD Spending Bill

Joe Gould, Defense News 6:02 p.m. EDT May 26, 2016

WASHINGTON — A proposed 2017 Pentagon budget easily vaulted another congressional hurdle on Thursday as the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-0 to send its defense spending bill to the full Senate.

Hewing to the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, the spending bill includes $515.9 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget funding and $58.6 billion in the war budget. It falls below the president’s budget request by about $1.7 billion and rejects the House approach of reallocating wartime funds for base budget needs.

“US national security interests receive necessary support within this bill, which has broad bipartisan support,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who also leads the defense subcommittee. “The bill sustains a strong US force structure, and it makes significant investments in readiness, shipbuilding programs, aircraft procurement and missile defense.”

Among Democrats on the panel who lauded the bill, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Wisconsin, contrasted it with its House counterpart, which uses $23 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) account for base budget needs, cutting off OCO in April as a gambit to force the next president request a defense supplemental.

“I especially appreciate that this conforms to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement and refrains from gimmicks that would not only shortchange non-defense priorities, but also our military — by creating, as the House has, a dangerous war-funding cliff for next year,” Baldwin said.

In passing the spending bill, the committee approved a package of eight amendments. The amendments would among other things expedite procurement of UH-1N replacement helicopters protecting missile sites and elevate US Cyber Command to a combatant command.

The bill, as passed in the Appropriations Defense subcommittee on Tuesday, recommended more than 450 specific budget cuts totaling $15.1 billion and reallocates that money to buy items on the services’ “unfunded priorities” lists, according to a committee fact sheet. The bill increases funding for readiness and operation and maintenance accounts, plus shipbuilding and aircraft procurement.

It adds $1 billion to build a heavy polar icebreaker, as some lawmakers see an urgent need to compete with Russia and other nations in the Arctic. One of the lead proponents of building another icebreaker, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., lamented the US has only one medium icebreaker, a research vessel.

“We need to get in the game, and what we are doing with the leadership of so many in this committee is stepping up,” Murkowski said.

The bill also allocates $600 million, full funding, for all three US-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs (Arrow System Improvement Program, Arrow III upper tier interceptor, and David’s Sling), as well as the Iron Dome system. Congress fully funded the program in 2015 at $620 million and in 2016 at $487 million, according to one of the provision’s proponents, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

At the hearing, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., offered a low-key preview of the brewing floor battle between Republicans and Democrats over a planned GOP gambit to boost defense spending authorization.

“This constitutes about half of our discretionary spending — defense — but is that enough considering our challenges all over the world,” Shelby said. “Entitlements keep growing, but our discretionary spending seems to shrink, Mr. Chairman.”

The vote came as elsewhere in the Senate, it’s 2017 defense policy bill remained stalled by Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said he wanted time to comb over the 1,600-page bill.

Reid’s move triggered a war of words with Republicans, whose hottest moment came Wednesday when Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, made a floor speech that blasted Reid’s “corrosive leadership” and quipped bitterly the last bill Reid read was “probably an electric bill.”

Reid effectively thwarted any major work on the bill ahead of the Memorial Day recess, including SASC Chairman John McCain’s introduction of an amendment to authorize $18 billion more than his committee’s $602 billion bill. Reid’s maneuver, whether he intended to or not, saves Democrats expected to rally against it in the name of parity for spending, from voting against added defense dollars just before the military-oriented holiday.

By Thursday afternoon, senators had introduced dozens of amendments to the policy bill, and the Senate was expected to take up and pass a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill when lawmakers return from recess.


Floppy disks, COBOL code obsolete? Not in many federal agencies.

Michael Hardy, Federal Times 3:13 p.m. EDT May 26, 2016


Federal agencies are spending an increasing amount of their IT budgets on operations and maintenance, leaving less funding for modernization, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report is troubling in its rundown of legacy systems still supporting government activities, including a 1970s-era computing system that coordinates U.S. nuclear forces at the Defense Department. While that revelation seems to be fueling most of the coverage and online chatter about the report, the problem runs far deeper.

Not only do many agencies run mission-critical systems on equipment from a bygone era, many of them do not even have specific plans to upgrade and modernize, GAO found.

O&M spending has been rising year by year since 2012, while spending for modernization and development has declined. From fiscal years 2010 to 2017, such spending has decreased by $7.3 billion, according to GAO.

Among the departments GAO examined:

•The Treasury Department runs its master file systems for individuals and businesses on an IBM mainframe. The systems are written in assembly language rather than a modern programming language, and Treasury has no specific plans for updating the systems.

•The Defense Department uses an IBM Series/1 computer and 8-inch floppy disks to run the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which coordinates nuclear forces such missiles and aircraft. DoD plans to update much of the system by the end of fiscal 2017.

•The Veterans Affairs Department uses IBM mainframes and COBOL code to run its time and attendance system for employees. Its benefits delivery network, which tracks claims filed by veterans, is also written in COBOL and runs on mainframes. VA plans to replace the T&M system with a new product next year, but has no specific plan for the benefits network.

•The Justice Department’s Sentry, which provides information regarding security and custody levels and other information about the inmate population, is written in COBOL and Java. The department has a plan to update it this year.

•The Social Security Administration uses a total of 162 subsystems, some written in COBOL, to determine benefits eligibility and amounts. It has ongoing modernization efforts underway, though the complexity of the legacy software is challenging them.



Welsh: F-22 Restart for US Air Force Not ‘A Wild Idea’

Lara Seligman, Defense News 3:14 p.m. EDT May 26, 2016


WASHINGTON — Although US Air Force and industry officials have repeatedly dubbed reviving Lockheed Martin’s F-22 production line as a nonstarter, the service’s outgoing chief of staff said Thursday it might not be such a crazy idea after all.

Gen. Mark Welsh’s comments marked the first time since Congress floated the idea last month that Air Force leadership has acknowledged an F-22 restart as anything but pie in the sky.

Lawmakers have condemned the decision to shut down the F-22 line ever since Lockheed terminated production almost five years ago. But the idea of an F-22 revival could actually be gaining traction this year, after the full House passed legislation that would, if approved by the Senate and signed into law, direct the service to study the possibility.

At Congress’s request, the Air Force has started to look at what an F-22 revival would take, Welsh said Thursday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association. The Air Force may even decide to build a modified F-22 instead of a sixth-generation fighter, Welsh hinted.

Although top Air Force officials have said in the past such a project would be cost-prohibitive, it’s “not a crazy idea,” Welsh said.

“I don’t think it’s a wild idea, I mean the success of the F-22 and the capability of the airplane and the crews that fly it are pretty exceptional. I think it’s proven that the airplane is exactly what everybody hoped it would be,” Welsh said. “We’re using it in new and different ways and it’s been spectacularly successful and its potential is really, really remarkable. And so going back and looking and certainly raising the idea: Well, could you build more? It’s not a crazy idea.”

The Air Force is currently working with Lockheed Martin to determine the feasibility and cost of such a project, Welsh said.

But this is not the first time the Air Force has looked into how much it would cost to begin building the stealth fighter again. An Air Force-commissioned 2010 study by the think tank Rand placed the cost to buy just 75 F-22s at $17 billion in 2008 dollars. And if the Air Force decides to upgrade the plane with modern technology instead of a one-for-one replacement, the price of the project could climb even higher.

The other obstacle is that Lockheed itself may not be on board with an F-22 restart. The company is focused right now on getting the F-35 across the finish line, and an F-22 revival could siphon funds away from the joint strike fighter.


Bottom of Form


What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls – Week Ending May 28, 2016

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Memorial Day weekend is upon us, a time to honor those who have given their lives for our country, although for most Americans it’s more about the arrival of summer

In surveys for years, voters consistently have given the U.S. military high positive marks.

But just 33% think the U.S. military can adequately handle the number of missions it now has. Fifty-five percent (55%) believe the military is currently overstretched.

The military notched a big win last weekend with the killing of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, leader of the Afghan Taliban. With increasing concern about the threat of terrorism here and abroad, voters are placing more importance on the war in Afghanistan, now in its 14th year, although less than half favor keeping U.S. troops there another year.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters now believe the U.S. military has become weaker during Barack Obama’s presidency. 

Voters remain lukewarm about Obama’s national security policies and expect more of the same if Hillary Clinton moves back into the White House next January. Donald Trump, if elected, will definitely change things, voters say, but not necessarily for the best.

Voters see Trump as a stronger military leader than Clinton, but most think they’ll be less safe no matter which of them wins the White House in November.

Clinton and Trump are in a near tie in Rasmussen Reports’ latest weekly White House Watch.

Clinton posts a 16-point advantage among women, but Trump leads by 12 points among men.  While much has been written and said about Trump’s gender gap with women, does Clinton have a gender gap with men?

The U.S. economy historically has had an average growth rate of 3.3% but has fallen short of that number in every year of Obama’s presidency. Still, his fellow Democrats give the president positive marks for his economic performance and think Clinton would do more of the same. Trump is expected to make the economy better by all voters – except Democrats.

If the decision is pushed off until next year, voters are closely divided over which presumptive presidential nominee would make the better choice to fill the current vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s how voters compare Clinton and Trump on some of the other key issues of the day.

Voters now see even more anti-Trump, pro-Clinton bias in the media. 

Things remain messy for the national Democratic party, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders refusing to exit the race for the presidential nomination. But most Democrats think their party will come together and expect an important endorsement of Clinton from Sanders.

Just eight percent (8%) of Democrats think Sanders is Very Likely to be their nominee. By comparison, 62% say Clinton is Very Likely to be nominated.

Democrats are evenly divided over whether Sanders supporters or questionable party rules are to blame for recent campaign violence.

The State Department’s inspector general, an Obama appointee, has concluded that Clinton knowingly broke department rules by using a private e-mail server for official business including top secret discussions, contradicting her earlier claims that the arrangement had been officially approved. Most voters believe it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving classified information through the server.

Here they come, ready or not. The Washington Times reported this week that “the State Department admitted 80 Syrian refugees on Tuesday and 225 on Monday, setting a single-day record, as President Obama tries to meet his target of 10,000 approvals this year.  Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters oppose allowing these Syrian refugees to come to America, a new high, and even more (73%) are concerned that giving them asylum poses a national security risk to the United States.

No wonder there’s an angry debate over illegal immigration in this country. Most Democrats believe people should be able to freely enter the United States at any time. Republicans strongly disagree, as do a majority of unaffiliated voters.

Eleven states are suing the Obama administration over its requirement that transgender school students be allowed to use any bathroom they choose. Just 32% of Americans with school-age children favor allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of the opposite biological sex if they prefer. 

Despite the unpopularity of many of his policies, the president continues to enjoy some of the best daily job approval ratings of his entire time in office

In other surveys last week:

— For the third week in a row, just 27% of voters say the country is headed in the right direction

Voters continue to have little faith in U.S. public schools and think it’s mainly up to parents and the students themselves to succeed.

Only 21% think most high school graduates have the skills needed for college. Americans are only a bit more confident in this year’s college graduates.

— Long lines of frustrated passengers at airports around the country have already prompted the removal of a top official at the struggling Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Americans still have a high opinion of airline safety but are definitely more critical of the TSA and airport security

Comedy icon Bill Cosby is guilty in the court of public opinion. 

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