The president's credibility is shot
Before leaving for the Middle East, President Biden sat down for an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News. Anchor Yonit Levi asked the president if he would use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “As a last resort, yes,” Biden said.
I’d like to think that Biden is sincere. I hope that he understands the dangers a nuclear Iran would pose to the Greater Middle East, to Europe, and indeed to the world. A nuclear Iran would launch a cycle of proliferation and escalation in the region. Iran’s nuclear missiles would be in range not only of America’s Persian Gulf allies but also of NATO. Iran would intensify its malign activities, from terrorism to proxy war to hostage-taking, knowing that the bomb gives it cover. A nuclear Iran means a world more dangerous, more violent, more flammable than the world is even today.
Which is why Biden is the latest American president to suggest that the use of force remains an option. An air and naval campaign to destroy the nuclear sites known to Western intelligence and to degrade the Islamic Republic’s capacity to retaliate is the best means of delaying and potentially foreclosing the possibility of an Iranian bomb. The objective of such an operation wouldn’t be regime change. The goal would be prevention. Israel and the Gulf States would support us. And Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping would pay attention. They would be put on notice: The American president means what he says.
Does he? In the spring of 2021, President Biden was asked about the record numbers of illegal immigrants who began crossing the southern border after he reversed his predecessor’s asylum policies. Biden dismissed the question. The migrant surge was “seasonal,” he said. It happens “every single solitary year.” Not like this, it doesn’t. The season ended long ago. The migration has continued for a year and a half. Last month saw the largest number of illegal crossings on record. Biden’s flippant answer was grossly mistaken, to say the least. He doesn’t seem to care. In fact, if he’s successful in ending Title 42 protocols allowing for the swift repatriation of illegal migrants, he will continue to make the problem worse.
In the summer of 2021, President Biden gave a speech on the inflation that was starting to appear in the economic data. “Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we’ve seen are—were expected and expected to be temporary,” he said. Like the “seasonal” migration on the southern border, the “temporary” inflation continues. Last month’s number was higher than expectations. Real earnings fell 4 percent. The president’s economic policies have resulted in a decline in Americans’ standard of living. Nothing he says on the issue has changed the public’s dismal view of his job performance.
It was only a year ago, remember, that President Biden was asked if a Taliban conquest of Afghanistan was inevitable. “No,” he answered. A month later, the holy warriors rolled into Kabul and America was forced into a panicked and dangerous rescue operation that left 13 U.S. servicemen killed and Afghanistan abandoned. Throughout this disaster, Biden spoke and acted as if everything was going according to plan, as if everything was under control. By Labor Day 2021, the public had severed its connection with a president whom it had placed in office simply because it was tired of the incumbent’s excesses. Biden might as well spend the rest of this year in Rehoboth Beach. He operates without public attention and without public support. His words carry no meaning. They don’t land, they don’t register, they don’t signify.
Will Biden use force to stop Iran? Maybe. That’s what he told Channel 12. Yet Biden acknowledged the possibility of a military strike only when Israeli media forced him to. Note the following: In his Washington Post op-ed explaining the reasons for his Middle East trip, Biden wrote that “my administration will continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Iran is ready to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as I remain prepared to do.” No discussion of how long he will wait for Iran to get “ready to return” to the deal. No mention of what he will do if Iran refuses to comply.
And Iran isn’t complying. Indirect talks between the United States and Iran, mediated by Europe and by, incredibly, Russia, have lasted for over a year. They’ve gone nowhere. Worse than nowhere: Iran’s nuclear “breakout” time is now zero. Last month Iran turned off the cameras that the International Atomic Energy Agency uses to monitor its disclosed nuclear facilities. The cameras remain dark. The Iran crisis is here, but President Biden acts as if it hasn’t yet arrived. The zombie negotiations in Vienna—with endless talks despite longstanding impasses over the status of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and whether Biden’s successor will have the power to scuttle the arrangement (which of course he will)—have become an end in themselves. Nor is there reason to expect the administration to cut them off so long as Iran doesn’t make too much trouble. Especially when Biden would like to bring Iranian oil back on the market.
So much of Biden’s rhetoric feels performative: He recycles the standard lines not to state policy or rally public opinion but simply to move on to the next question. Where he is most sincere, it seems to me, is his reluctance to deploy our forces abroad. Think of his Afghanistan withdrawal, and his self-deterrence vis-à-vis Russia in Ukraine. “I will be the first president to visit the Middle East since 9/11 without U.S. troops engaged in a combat mission there,” he said in the final line of his Washington Post op-ed. “It’s my aim to keep it that way.”
That’s the real Biden—the Biden who believes that he’s been right on every foreign policy issue of the last half century, when he almost always has been wrong—the Biden whose credibility is shot. Should Israel and America’s Middle East partners take him seriously? Look at his actions rather than his words. And if he fails to act, others should.
The president’s budget doesn’t match U.S. commitments
War was in the background of President Biden’s trip to Asia last week. He redeployed U.S. forces to Somalia before he left. He signed into law $40 billion in financial and military assistance to Ukraine during his visit to South Korea. Then, in Japan, a reporter asked Biden if he was prepared to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.” Biden’s answer was succinct. “Yes,” he said.
Forget the clumsy White House reaction to Biden’s moment of lucidity. Leave aside the question of whether the United States should move from a policy of strategic ambiguity, where our response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is left undefined, to a policy of strategic clarity where we let China know the direct consequences of such an attack.
Consider instead the following: Does the Pentagon have the resources to defend democracies from autocrats in two hemispheres?
Afraid not. The Pentagon ditched the “two-front” war preparedness strategy under Barack Obama. Meanwhile U.S. defense spending as a percentage of the economy has been in decline for decades. Biden has shown little interest in changing its downward course. Indeed, the one place where he’s been reluctant to spend money is national defense.
Biden’s fiscal year 2022 request of $715 billion was too small even for the Democratic Congress. It ended up authorizing $728.5 billion. Biden’s fiscal year 2023 request is for $773 billion. Maybe that seems like a hefty sum. It’s not. Biden’s defense budget is meager compared with the tasks the president has set out.
Why? Part of the reason is inflation. The Biden budget request paints a rosy—and inaccurate—scenario. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Mackenzie Eaglen has run the numbers. She begins with the $773 billion marked for the Pentagon. “Using a more honest 7.46 percent CPI [Consumer Price Index] estimate (the FY22 average so far) for military personnel raises the topline to $794.5 billion needed next year,” she writes.
That still isn’t enough, however. “$846 billion in FY 2023 is a more realistic down payment on matching defense investments against national security threats,” Eaglen concludes, “and should be the starting point as Congress builds a more accurate defense budget.” In other words, Eaglen recommends a 9 percent increase in the Biden administration’s topline before Congress and its appropriators become involved. Her proposal makes sense. It’s necessary. And it won’t happen.
It won’t happen for several reasons. The first is inertia. None of the threats we encountered or fear we might encounter in the post-Cold War world have provoked the people’s representatives to increase defense spending to Reagan-era levels. The political willpower doesn’t exist. Entitlements and interest on the debt act as additional constraints. We’ve muddled through for 30 years, this thinking goes. No need to stop now.
The second brake on defense spending is the Progressive bias against hard power. By the 2024 election, America will have been governed by presidents skeptical of defense spending and the military for 12 of the past 16 years. Such leadership has an effect not only on materiel but also on the culture of the national security establishment. Progressives under Obama and Biden see the Pentagon more as a vehicle for social policy and geopolitical featherbedding than as an instrument of deterrence and the national interest. Left-wing taboos against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, oil and gas, and the warrior mindset take precedent over military readiness and lethality. The president overrules the secretary of defense and joint chiefs. America grows weaker even as its leader calls for greater global activism.
Noninterventionism and restraint on the foreign policy right creates a bipartisan reluctance to spend more on defense. President Trump increased defense spending, but not by enough. His administration was filled with skeptics of American engagement and foreign intervention who wanted to reduce not only the Pentagon’s budget but also its influence throughout the world. Republican voices in Congress promote an “America First” foreign policy that would constrict U.S. deployments, aid, and partnerships.
About a quarter of the House GOP and a fifth of the Senate GOP, for example, voted against the latest aid package to Ukraine. Granted, this batch of aid seemed designed to split conservatives, who have a longstanding aversion to unconditional economic assistance. The vote stands as a warning for both liberal and conservative internationalists, nonetheless. The bipartisan consensus over Ukraine may not survive a prolonged war of attrition.
You correct a mismatch between resources and commitments by increasing resources or decreasing commitments. President Biden resists increasing resources for national defense, while powerful elements of both left and right work to reduce American commitments. Neither strategy makes America safer. Someone needs to make the case for a major U.S. defense buildup in response to the challenges of China, Russia, and Iran. And they need to do it soon.
The U.S. Air Force now has 57 new, high tech refueling tankers with more in the proverbial pipeline to replace its aging fleet of Eisenhower-era tankers. While tankers don’t generally capture the headlines, without a capable tanker to do mid-air refueling, the reach of our military’s bombers, fighters, and reconnaissance planes are cut dramatically. Simply put, tankers allow America’s warfighters to stay in the air and on target longer and without making extra trips back to the home base to refuel. And the KC-46 is operating right now refueling military aircraft over Poland and Germany that are protecting NATO as war wages nearby in Ukraine. The modernized KC-46 tankers are the most capable on the planet, and are more fuel efficient and can deliver fuel to every single aircraft in our arsenal. That means they are better for the taxpayer, the environment, and the warfighter.
Our nation’s military leaders estimate that we will need about 480 tankers to entirely replace America’s aging fleet and meet our defensive needs. As with all military equipment, many years or even decades from now, we will likely replace the KC-46 tanker, just as we are now doing. However, for the fights of today and the generation to come, the KC-46 is the world’s most capable and robust tanker. It’s also cost-effective at a time when budgets are being spread thin.
Given what has happened in recent years, it is clear that we have a lot of pressing national security budgetary needs. We will need to expand our missile defense and deterrence capabilities and make sure we have the tools to deter Chinese and Russian aggression as well as deter rogue states like North Korea and Iran. In times like these, we can’t afford to waste billions of dollars to buy a less advanced foreign tanker, let alone the years of development and testing it will take to upgrade it to the capability of an aircraft we already own. Doing that would simply divert money from other pressing needs which would have the impact of endangering our nation — not protecting it.
Development of military hardware is an expensive and time consuming process. And adding a whole host of changes and upgrades to bring a foreign tanker up to U.S. military standards would be a major development program with all the same risks of the unknown and the unproven. If the Pentagon starts down that path on another tanker today, it likely won’t roll off the assembly line for close to a decade. By that time, the Air Force will be looking to next generation tankers that are unmanned, stealthy, and able to fly places a wide body aircraft never will. In the meantime, if the Pentagon wants new technology or capability built into the new KC-46, that can easily be done. l
Some Pentagon officials want to pursue a relationship with Airbus. That would be a mistake. Even as Russia wages war against Ukraine, threatens expanded war against the Western world, and even threatens nuclear escalation, Airbus continues to buy titanium from Russia. In contrast, U.S.-based Boeing has announced that it is ceasing Russian titanium buys.
But that’s not the only reason the U.S. should be wary of entering into business with Airbus. The company has a long history of scandal and corruption. In the United Kingdom, for example, investigations have exposed massive bribery scandals. French investigations have also uncovered evidence of corruption. Additionally, Airbus has paid billions in fines because it has engaged in bribery schemes around the globe.
Moreover, Airbus has cost Americans thousands of high-paying aerospace jobs by violating trade laws and trade agreements. It doesn’t make sense defensively or economically to outsource our high tech capabilities and make our nation more dependent upon unreliable and untrustworthy trading partners.
“Buy American” is a mantra being repeated far and wide by the White House and others, from newsrooms to manufacturers. It’s merits can be debated, but the reality is that it makes no sense at all to choose to make ourselves dependent upon other nations for the things we absolutely must have to survive in a dangerous world. For example, missile defense technology and national security technology must be 100% American.
The KC-46 tanker is the most capable in the world. It is new and in the coming years if it needs updates, it can be achieved at a minimal cost. There is simply no real benefit to our war fighters, our taxpayers, or our nation to start developing a foreign tanker, especially given the current global environment.
The U.S. has a lot of work to do in other areas of national security to ensure that Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran pose no serious danger to our nation. When you consider all the facts, it becomes clear we need a new tanker built by Airbus like we need a gasoline powered turtleneck sweater.
A failure of American nerve
“Democracy needs champions,” President Biden said on December 9 as he called to order his summit of democracies. It sure does. Yet Biden has a funny way of championing it.
Less than a year into his term, the number of global democracies has already decreased by one. Two others are under threat of invasion and extinction. What happened in Afghanistan, and what might happen to Ukraine and Taiwan, is a reminder that democracies do not vanish because of a failure to pass a partisan agenda or win an election. They die when the rule of law collapses. And that can happen in two ways. A polity can descend into anarchy. Or an adversarial force can replace a democratic state’s monopoly on violence with its own.
Both threats are serious. The risk of internal decay was manifest in the riots of 2020 and the storming of Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. The moment demands that both Republicans and Democrats recommit to the rule of law, to constitutional deliberation and procedure, to empirical evidence, and to civil peace. But domestic challenges should not blind us to external dangers.
Otto von Bismarck once joked that the United States is blessed to be bordered on two sides by allies and on the other two sides by fish. Not every democracy is as lucky. The fate of freedom elsewhere is tenuous. For the last 80 years, American power and American security guarantees have sustained and expanded the ranks of democratic nations. The tinier and more fragile the state, the more hazardous its neighborhood, the more it depends on American aid and American strength. Remove America from the equation, and the jackals take its place.
That is what happened when America cut off aid to South Vietnam in 1975. It is what happened only a few months ago when President Biden overruled his national security team and the generals on the ground and withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan with no plan for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents as the Taliban advanced. Was the democratically elected government of Afghanistan flawed and corrupt? Yes. Was its control limited to the major cities? You bet. Did it nevertheless provide countless Afghans (population of Kabul: four million) a measure of freedom, security, and opportunity in which they could pursue their destinies in peace? Incontrovertibly.
And it’s gone. Because Biden lacked the will to sustain a relatively low deployment of U.S. troops to aid Afghan forces. America’s weary democracy endures. Afghanistan’s does not. And the man who condemned Afghanistan to misery—and who incidentally also had no problem abandoning South Vietnam to one-party Communist rule—now says the contest between authoritarianism and liberal democracy will define the twenty-first century. What he says is right. But what he does is wrong. Terribly wrong.
Consider Ukraine. It too is a democracy—and it too must be worried about Biden’s resolve. For the second time this year, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has built up his forces across Ukraine’s eastern border. A Russian invasion is a real, if unlikely, possibility. Putin is not “securing his border,” as if Ukrainians were entering Russia illegally looking for work. There isn’t any. Nor does Putin “feel threatened” by NATO. He’s the one making the threats. He’s the one who annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. He’s the one raising the prospect of a major military operation against an independent state. It’s funny how many of America’s most famous “nationalists” don’t seem to be bothered by imperialism, so long as the imperialists speak Russian.
President Biden is vocal in defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. But he is also playing into Putin’s strategy of “reflexive control.” Biden agreed to a video teleconference with Putin that had one upshot: elevating the autocrat’s status. Biden warns of sanctions, an end to pipeline construction, and reinforcement of NATO allies in Eastern Europe. The trouble is that the measures would happen only if Putin invades. At this point Biden has done nothing concrete, has established no facts on the ground, to dissuade Putin from his present course. On the contrary: According to the AP, Biden wants Ukraine to recognize the “autonomy” of Russian-backed separatist zones. According to Bloomberg, he wants NATO members to negotiate with Russia over the future of the alliance.
Biden wants to avert war by naming potential reprisals. This is like telling your kid to behave or else you will send him to his room. Chances are he won’t listen. Why? Because he’s heard the same thing many times before without lasting consequences.
“I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said to the White House press corps on Pearl Harbor Day. Let’s hope so. Whatever President Obama did seven years ago—and he didn’t do much—had no discernible effect on Putin. Why then should Putin be worried about Obama’s former vice president—especially since Biden currently opposes sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, hasn’t yet retaliated against Russian-backed cyberattacks, and is going out of his way to address Putin’s phony grievances?
Deterrence doesn’t run on promissory notes. Deterrence raises the cost of hostile action in the here and now. Which is why Biden’s video conference was a mistake, and why his preemptively ruling out U.S. boots on the ground was too. No one wants or expects the commitment of U.S. forces in the case of Russo-Ukrainian war—but no one should tell Putin he doesn’t have to worry about that possibility either. Deterrence is about keeping Putin on his toes: by calling for real increases in the defense budget, by reinforcing the Baltic states sooner rather than later, by selling drones and other lethal materiel to Ukraine, by pledging construction of additional liquefied natural gas facilities in Poland, Ukraine, and Latvia.
What’s happening in Ukraine today is the result of what happened in Afghanistan over the summer. And what might happen in Taiwan in the coming years depends on what happens in Ukraine now. The failure of American nerve in Afghanistan caught the attention of authoritarians everywhere (including in Iran). They watched as America bolted and a democracy collapsed. They saw that democracies don’t live or die on talk. Democracies live or die upon their willingness to use force to defend their way of life. And that willingness, in turn, depends on the leadership and support and resolve of the world’s oldest, richest, and most powerful constitutional democracy.
This isn’t theory—ask the Afghans. Democracies perish when America bugs out.
The United States may soon lose its status as a truly global superpower, both on Earth and in the heavens of low orbit.
“The threats are really growing and expanding every single day,” Space Force Vice Chief of Operations Gen. David Thompson warned in an interview with the Washington Post published Tuesday.
As the Chinese and Russians continue to enhance their capabilities beyond Earth-bound gravity, the United States finds itself in the midst of a new 21st-century space race, competing with world powers developing new weapons to target satellites.
“We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened,” Thompson said, adding U.S. satellites already face attacks “every single day” whether it be by laser, cyber, or frequency jammers.
China is building its own version of satellite-based global positioning systems, said Thompson. That’s in addition to the ‘couple of hundred’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites China has now deployed to watch over any part of the globe. China is also putting satellites into space at twice the rate of the United States, meaning that if nothing changes on our end, China will surpass the United States in capability in space in a few years, he estimated.
‘We are still the best in the world, clearly in terms of capability. They’re catching up quickly,’ he said. ‘We should be concerned by the end of this decade if we don’t adapt.’
The nation’s stated 10-year goals in space, however, aren’t focused on countering global threats with enhancements in low-orbit technology.
On Nov. 4., the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released its 10-year survey outlining priorities with funding recommendations over the next 10 years in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. Among them include probing Earth-like planets beyond our solar system, studying the nature of black holes, and seeking to “revolutionize understanding” of galaxy evolution. The report, commissioned by NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Air Force, also makes racially divisive efforts at “diversity” and “inclusion” a centerpiece of its instruction, even tying grant money to compliance.
“This survey was strongly influenced by the urgent need to advance diversity, equality, and inclusion in all aspects of society,” the authors wrote, highlighting the proliferation of the Black Lives Matter movement. “There is momentum to effect change, and the time is overdue to actively focus on these activities. Changing the defaults under which astronomy is practiced will only happen with energetic engagement and a diversity-, equity-, and inclusion-focused lens.”
While China quickly weaponizes space, testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in October that can remain in orbit, the woke industrial complex distracts U.S. priorities. The goal to “develop and diversify the scientific workforce” is listed as a “foundational activity” with commitments to “equity.” Equity is mentioned 94 times in the more than 600-page report.
“The ugly realization of continued discrimination in the form of racism, bias, and harassment hampers progress towards building a fully diverse and inclusive workforce,” the authors wrote, justifying recommendations to ramp up data collection efforts to study racism in science. “At the core of a diversity-, equity-, and inclusivity-focused approach is the need for data to evaluate equitable outcomes of proposal competitions.”
The report specifically demands NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Sciences Foundation (NSF) to consider diversity “in the evaluation of funding awards to individual investigators, project and mission teams, and third-party organizations that manage facilities.”
While not a military agency, the congressionally chartered nonprofit seeks to “inform policy” as an intellectual backbone on major issues, steering agency priorities in the process. The group’s report, commissioned by the federal government, illustrates a misplaced focus on skin color as opposed to a strategy exclusively centered on technology and innovation.
Meanwhile, the Chinese are set to race ahead in space and global warfare capabilities.
Lockheed Martin has announced a plan to purchase Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Often mergers are natural responses to market forces that produce a more capable competitor in the marketplace which can benefit the economy and consumers generally. But sometimes, mergers simply kill off competition and end up creating dependence within the marketplace upon a single provider for certain products or services.
This is the problem with the proposed Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne merger — it will give one company virtual monopoly power over any military technology that involves missile propulsion.
Before this merger goes through, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) must complete a review of it and approve it. If they look at the facts and learn from history, they will realize how truly problematic the proposed merger is.
In 2018, Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK. This merger left Aerojet Rocketdyne as America’s last independent solid rocket motor provider. That reduced competition by causing major defense contractors to drop out of competitions because they couldn’t get the cooperation needed from the newly acquired rocket motor provider.
This proposed merger would only exacerbate the problem.Aerojet Rocketdyne has partnered with many of the major defense contractors, including: Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon. Right now, when the military seeks proposals for missile defense systems, it can go to all of these companies and others and ask them to compete on cost, capability and technology.Each of the competitors could go to Aerojet Rocketdyne for subcontracting help on the rocket propulsion portion of the contract. There isn’t enough high-tech missile rocket propulsion work to justify numerous competitors.
But if one of the major competitors owns the sole remaining rocket propulsion company, the other competitors will be effectively locked out. It wouldn’t be in the interest of the new larger monopolist to allow the rocket propulsion portion of the company to help a competitor win the prime contract.
Even if the DoD and FTC require that the new company not use its monopoly power to its advantage, it will. That’s simply how it works. We’ve already seen that.
The DoD and the FTC have ordered other companies to not use the monopoly power that they acquired in a merger, but that doesn’t actually stop them. It just means that they can’t be too obvious about it. They can still give themselves certain competitive advantages in price and cooperation levels.
This limits competition, harms innovation, soaks the taxpayer and in the end endangers our national security.
When it comes to national security matters, buying foreign technology isn’t a smart move and often isn’t even legal. So there is no reason to allow a merger that will reduce competition and give one defense contractor the ability to gain the upper hand in any defense project that involves missile propulsion.
On January 19, 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warnedthat among the weaknesses in our defense sector is “a reliance on sole or single source suppliers, reliance on foreign sources (including adversarial sources) and vulnerabilities to predatory and adversarial capital investments…”
If approved, this merger would only increase the need for prime contractors to look overseas for missile supplies — which is a dangerous direction for national security reasons, and it puts the American taxpayer at additional risk as well. As we saw during the COVID pandemic, being overly dependent on adversarial powers for basic needs is a dangerous place to be.
Additionally, President Biden signed an executive order calling for the federal government to use more U.S.-based suppliers for products. Nowhere is that more important than in the area of defense and national security.
Some defend the merger on grounds that it would increase competition in the space sector. But that is a red herring. This merger is not really about space competition, which is fairly robust with a number of capable players.
Instead, this merger is primarily about hypersonic technology and missile defense. Aerospace industry analyst Andrew Penn came to the same conclusion. This merger is about securing a monopoly.The nation’s security cannot afford a monopoly when it comes to missile defense. The Russians and the Chinese are developing hypersonic missiles that could evade our current defenses.If we want to keep our competitive advantage and protect the nation from the threat of hypersonic missile attack, we will need our best defense companies competing in a robust fashion to come up with innovative and cost-effective solutions. This merger does not make that more likely — in fact, it makes it very unlikely.
Let’s hope the DoD and FTC are paying attention. It isn’t often that a proposed merger could lead to missile attack vulnerabilities, but this is precisely that case.
A few years back, the Pentagon committed to an important upgrade of our military’s heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-47F Chinook. That was a smart decision as it kept costs under control while upgrading – in impressive ways – a proven and battle-tested workhorse.
While the helicopter’s distinctive look on the outside hasn’t changed, it is so much more advanced on the inside, with a list of new systems and capabilities that will keep it relevant for the next 40 years.
As the most capable heavy-lift helicopter on the planet, special operators who fly the most dangerous and demanding missions in the Army swear by the Chinook and trust their lives in it.
But over the years, the United States military has developed important weapons systems needed by our warfighters that are heavier than the old Chinook’s lift capacity. These new systems and equipment may need to be lifted into, or out of, battle space – one of the helicopter’s primary duties – so an updated version was planned and engineered.
The result was an effectively brand-new helicopter that will be able to do it all. It can fly farther, faster, higher and in more adverse weather all while lifting more than ever before (10 tons of supplies and equipment) — all at a comparatively low cost.
Simply stated, these upgrades cost a fraction of starting over and developing a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch and they give the U.S. military a new Chinook that can serve its needs for decades to come.
While the special operations variant is being updated, the Army’s variant also needs the same support.
If we don’t update the Army’s Chinook fleet, the military won’t be able to rapidly deploy new equipment to our warfighters and they will have to operate with lower ceilings and lower lift capacity.
Imagine being pinned down and needing support and not being able to get the tools you need because we chose not to update and upgrade our heavy lift helicopter. It makes no sense to tie the hands of future battle commanders or to endanger the lives of soldiers on the front lines by skipping this upgrade.
Yet, it appears that is precisely what the Pentagon is planning to do. Despite having planned to update the Chinook and having a path that is both financially supportable and makes the helicopter an impressive tool for another four decades, the Pentagon has zeroed out the Chinook upgrade program and appears poised to just use the aging fleet for another 40 years. That isn’t practical, realistic or wise.
Our fighting men and women deserve better than this and the American taxpayers deserve better as well. It also is dangerous to simply shut down the production of a platform that will be needed for the next 40 years.
Not only will thousands of high paying high tech manufacturing jobs be killed in the process, but the taxpayer will pay through the nose when the problems created by this shortsighted decision eventually need to be resolved.
Simply put, if the Pentagon opts to start over and develop a new heavy lift helicopter from scratch, the military could have another budget busting project on its hands that doesn’t outperform the upgraded Chinook.
On top of that, it would leave our troops in a real fix for another decade or longer while that development takes place.
Furthermore, if the military eventually opts to re-start the production of the Chinook and fire-up the production lines after having closed them down, it will have needlessly delayed the upgrades to our warfighters and added substantial costs to the taxpayer. Perhaps the Pentagon is trying to save a few bucks in the near term, but that will most likely guarantee significant costs down the road on a future fix for this temporary, shortsighted policy.
Congress has typically been very supportive of the Pentagon’s Chinook upgrade plans and is actually demonstrating rare bipartisan support for continuing the modernization program. For now, it appears it will take legislative action to make sure that the Chinook gets the planned upgrades that our warfighters need and that the American taxpayer deserves, absent any change in policy from the Pentagon.
Historically, the U.S. is almost always wrong in predicting where the next conflict will be. Our military needs a helicopter that can effectively operate across the spectrum of battlefield requirements now – not 10 or 15 years from now.
With China acting increasingly provocative, and Russia attempting to regain its prior military status, now is not the time to skip on upgrading America’s heavy lift helicopter. The Army needs to make the rational, reasonable, and cost-effective decision.
In this highly divided era, it is worth noting that missile defense enjoys strong bipartisan support not only in the halls of Congress but also among the American people. The reason is clear — the world is a dangerous place, and our enemies are pursuing missiles with greater range, greater speed, and greater maneuverability. Iran, North Korea, China, and other nations are developing weapons designed to avoid interception, deploy better decoys, and jam defensive technologies. Missile defense is what stands between those efforts and devastating attacks and destruction, and America’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a highly capable defensive system against intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missile attack.
But because our enemies are constantly trying to improve their ability to attack us, we must constantly improve our ability to defend ourselves. The current GMD system is quite impressive, but if left unimproved, it would become outdated over time and leave us vulnerable to attack. Thankfully, the Department of Defense (DoD) has continued to be as committed to improving GMD as our adversaries are to improving their offensive missile systems.
Unfortunately, the DoD is considering a strategic mistake that may undermine its commitment to missile defense: taking over the engineering, development, and integration of the GMD program from private industry. This would reverse decades of successful American innovation, replace private sector innovation with government bureaucracy, and put our nation and allies at risk.
Historically, the DoD has defined the goals and objectives of various defensive weapon systems — whether it is fighter jets, bombers, missile systems, high tech radars, or the GMD program. But the DoD has not actually done the engineering, development or integration of those technologies. Instead, DoD has harnessed the innovation and know how of America’s best and brightest engineers and rocket scientists to do the actual work of developing, designing, and integrating.
This is the approach that NASA used to go to the moon and bring our astronauts safely home again — something that even 50 years later, no other nation has done. This is the approach that the DoD has used to build the world’s best fighter jets and bombers, the world’s most capable naval ships and submarines, and virtually every other impressive and complex technology that our warfighters use to keep our nation and our allies safe.
DoD’s proposed change would put the government in the position of being the primary engine of innovation. Government is important and performs many crucial functions to our civil society, but innovation is not typically its strong suit. The government has overcome its innovation deficit by harnessing the innovative expertise of America’s best and brightest engineering minds. There is a lot of complex engineering and a great deal of innovative energy that integrates the various component parts of missile defense. There are multiple stage rockets, multiple radars, other tracking systems, and a highly complex “kill vehicle” that includes very precise tracking technology as well as rocket technology to steer the vehicle to the exact spot that will vaporize the incoming warhead. This is no small feat as our system hits and destroys the incoming missile at a closing speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour.
The DoD cannot do this job nearly as well as Boeing, which has been innovating GMD since the program’s inception. Boeing has been primarily responsible for GMD system-level performance and integration, which includes development, fielding, testing, systems engineering, integration, manufacturing, training, operations, and sustainment. The DoD should not willingly undercut and lose that experience and expertise.
To be blunt, if DoD takes over this role, we can almost certainly count on a less robust, less effective missile defense system. The DoD didn’t design and build the planes that won World War II or the nuclear deterrent that has protected America since the 1960s. The DoD didn’t build and design the radars that protect our troops or the ships and submarines that protect our nation. Many private firms responding to the DoD’s request for innovative approaches did all of that. And we didn’t land on the moon because NASA designed and built the Saturn V rocket or the lunar module, or the Apollo space capsule. Again, a large number of private firms did that at the request of NASA and with government defining the mission and goals.
Our national defense strategy has historically combined the goals of government with the innovation of the private sector, and the results have been the world’s most robust and capable defensive system. There is no good reason to abandon what works and replace it with the national defense equivalent of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. With missile threats growing, we can’t make careless mistakes that put millions at risk.
Albert Einstein is said to have thought that God does not play dice with the universe. Two nations, Russia and the United States, now possess about 90 percent of the world’s inventory of nuclear warheads and have the godlike power to destroy most of humanity and all it has built. Yet we are not gods but flawed human beings. In a very real sense, the presidents of Russia and the United States are stewards for all humanity: They have a duty to act responsibly in current arms-control negotiations. “Get on with it” must be humanity’s instruction to them.
In recent days, there has been a glimmer of hope. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to extend the life of the nuclear accord known as New START by at least one year beyond its expiration date of Feb. 5, 2021. Russia also agreed to accept the U.S. proposal for a political commitment to “freeze” for one year the total number of nuclear warheads on each side, and to use the time gained to continue negotiations on a new agreement. The Trump administration is seeking to negotiate verification measures for the warhead freeze, which in our experience will be a complex endeavor and take considerable time.AD
The United States and Russia should seal the deal now to extend New START, because if the last remaining bilateral treaty governing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces ends in February, the world’s most destructive nuclear arsenals will be unlimited and unverified for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
Despite the significant progress of reducing total nuclear stockpiles by 75 percent since their Cold War heights, the danger of nuclear weapon use is growing. Approximately 14,000 such weapons in the world are spread among nine countries. Many of these arms are on high alert, ready to be launched in only a few minutes, based on the decisions of a handful of fallible humans and their fallible computers. Cyber-interference with command-and-control and the warning systems of any nuclear-armed nation significantly increases the risks of false warnings and nuclear war-by-blunder.
New START must be extended without delay, but it is now threatened by a risky game of chicken being played by Presidents Trump and Putin. Skillful diplomacy between the United States and Russia could extend the life of the agreement by up to five years, as provided for in the treaty, and as Russia offered last year. This would allow precious time for negotiating deeper reductions in the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has insisted on the inclusion of China, whose military programs are growing rapidly, in future nuclear negotiations. The goal is laudable, but China must be persuaded to join, not bullied by diplomatic stunts and threats. Beijing has made clear that it first needs to see substantial reductions in the stockpiles of both the United States and Russia, which far exceed its own.AD
The United States, Russia, China and other nuclear powers need time to address the range of destabilizing factors that threaten to turn a conditional peace into an irreparable catastrophe. As a first significant step, China could be invited to join the United States and Russia in restating the Reagan-Gorbachev principle: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
The Trump administration’s pursuit of a freeze on all U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads is also an important goal, but it will take time to develop an agreement with meaningful constraints and verification provisions. Russia has its own list of issues to be addressed in the next treaty. Extending New START would provide essential time for a careful, step-by-step approach to further stockpile reductions, with the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons as a threat to the world.
With the foundation of New START in place, all of the two countries’ nuclear weapons — including those associated with short-range systems, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, of which Russia has a larger number — should be subject to limits. But the United States and Russia will have to invest the time and effort necessary to establish new verification methods. Other long-standing issues will need to be discussed in parallel, including ballistic-missile defense; weapons in space; precision-guided, long-range conventional arms; and emerging technologies, including cyber.AD
Is there reason for hope? Can the world get onto a less dangerous path? We believe the answer is yes, but the United States and Russia must extend New START to preserve what is already working and to gain time for discussions about what can be done next.
Given the dangerously high risk that a nuclear weapon could be used today, and the catastrophic consequences if that happened, extension of New START is a crucial and responsible step.
The Pentagon is wisely examining future risks of missile attack and making plans to prevent them. These plans will take at least 10 years to develop — maybe even longer, as everything often does not go as planned. In the meantime, we have our current generation Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) protecting America. While waiting for the next generation missile defense to be developed, we must keep our current generation defenses up-to-date and fully capable.
This is where there is troubling news. To afford the next generation system, the Pentagon is planning to use the funding for updates and improvements to our current GMD system to pay for the development of a future system — effectively limiting our defenses and placing America a greater risk over the next 10 years.
Our enemies are pursuing more capable missiles — greater range, greater speed, greater maneuverability to avoid interception, the ability to deploy better decoys and the ability to jam defensive technologies to effectively blind them. So it is very risky to forgo improvements to our current defenses while we work on a future system that won’t be ready for at least 10 years!
I wholeheartedly endorse the need to develop a next generation missile defense system. But the idea of leaving us exposed to a devastating missile attack in just a few short years and then leaving us even more exposed for the balance of the next decade is completely insane. The Pentagon is effectively saying that it will trust in the goodwill of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and in the kindness of the Communist Chinese dictator, Xi Jinping — who actively hid the truth from the rest of the world and lied about COVID, making the pandemic more deadly and the economic impact devastating. Imagine the insanity of trusting in the goodwill of the Iranian Mullahs? Even Russia, while no longer our chief geopolitical rival, still poses a significant risk.
We must always outpace the evolving threats. Thomas Jefferson wisely warned Americans that the price of liberty is “eternal vigilance.” And George Washington counseled that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” These words should ring loudly in our ears. To fail to be vigilant on something as important as nuclear missile attack is worse than stupid, it is suicidal!
Our layered missile defense includes elements that protect our troops around the globe wherever they may be, and the vast American homeland. GMD defends America’s vast homeland. Patriot, Aegis and THAAD are designed to protect American warfighters, bases and ships from missile attack. Their coverage zone is far too small to effectively protect the vast US homeland.
For example, Aegis as impressive as it is, defends an area that is 14 times smaller than GMD, based on material recently presented by VADM Jon Hill, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. And THAAD’s area defended is less than half that of Aegis and neither gives a second shot intercept opportunity.
To defend the vast American homeland, we have GMD. And that is the system the Pentagon wants to significantly upgrade in about 10 years. Eventually, the plan is for GMD to employ the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). But neglecting our current GMD system — killing off all upgrades, zeroing out all improvements, and refusing to increase the number of interceptors we have available will only benefit our enemies and place Americans at risk until the day the new system is available — at least 10 years from now.
Without the ability to test the system and keep our defenses sharp, we would simply be hoping for good results. Hope isn’t a serious strategy when it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
To be blunt, leaving the current system without incremental upgrades for the next 10 years while announcing a major system upgrade that will hopefully be ready in 10 years, sounds like an invitation to attack before the new system is in place and while the current system has grown outdated and less capable. We shouldn’t be sending that sort of invitation to the world’s dictators.
The President and many in Congress on both sides of the aisle want to upgrade our current defenses and also develop the needed next generation defense. Americans of all political stripes should want to prevent America from suffering a devastating nuclear missile attack.
We need Congress to provide sufficient funding for missile defense so that we can keep our current defenses strong, and so that we can develop even better future defenses to meet the growing risks. To do less than this is reckless and courting disaster. And those who are willing to recklessly court disaster should never again be trusted to serve the American people.
By Defense News•
Those who plan for our nation’s defense are often under pressure because of questionable spending decisions made in the past. Money wasted or misspent by lawmakers in Washington increases pressure to slash funding needed for our nation’s defense. Our war fighters should never lack the tools they need because national leaders make poor decisions. Our leaders must ensure our military has what it needs to defend America today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
Our war fighters are expected to defend us against current risks and dangers, and at the same time be prepared for future perils and upgrade our defensive capabilities. But when budgets are tight, we pit current security needs against future security needs. That is dangerous.
We see this playing out now with our nation’s military aircraft. We have a shortage of wings and reduced readiness because for decades we have been using up planes faster than we’ve been replacing them. Next year’s budget reveals that the Pentagon is planning to add zero F-18s to replace older planes that can no longer fly. Thus, the plane shortage will simply get worse while we wait for at least a decade for a new plane to be developed and roll off production lines. And it may be a lot longer because challenges and delays in high-tech development are difficult to predict.
Moreover, as planes get older, they cost more to operate and eventually become unsafe to fly without a major overhaul, which can be staggeringly expensive. Because we’ve allowed our fighter fleet to age, we are at a point where immediate action is necessary. Deciding to buy fewer F-18s than our Navy needs means that the current shortage of wings will only get worse. It will also weaken our capabilities for at least a decade. This is simply too great a risk!
Imagine that you wanted to upgrade your health insurance. Would you cancel your current policy to “save” money so that in 10 years you could afford a more robust health plan? Of course not. The risk exposure would be too great. Similarly, forcing the military to endure aircraft shortages for a decade creates unacceptable risks to our nation’s security.
Our military must continue developing effective and modernized tools for our war fighters. Our adversaries are working overtime to surpass us, and we cannot permit that to happen. But we also cannot afford to leave a 10-year gap in aerial defense and create a large window of opportunity for adversarial nations to seize on our weaknesses.
China has been frantically building a blue water navy that is larger than our own. They have nuclear submarines and missile technology, and have bragged of their future capacity to attack and defeat the United States. Suspending procurement of the aircraft we need over the next decade makes us increasingly vulnerable. There is simply no way to justify that, no matter how bleak the Pentagon’s ledger.
Our enemies are dedicated to finding and exploiting any weakness in our defenses. By forgoing new F-18s, we are shining a spotlight on a significant weakness. This is irresponsible and dangerous. China’s leadership is surely cheering that budget plan in Beijing.
The F-18 isn’t simply a time-tested and proven fighter. The current F-18 has incorporated some of the most advanced technologies — more rapidly in some cases than our latest high-tech F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-18’s new, low-drag, conformal fuel tanks allow it to fly faster, farther, stay on target longer and sustain a heavier payload, including an impressive array of advanced weapons. It employs next-generation radars, electronic warfare technology, jammers, and computing power and data availability to improve situational awareness and give war fighters the advantage in every confrontation.
Its long-range counter-stealth capability allows it to see the enemy while remaining virtually invisible. As heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali said of rival George Foreman: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hand can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”
Most importantly, the F-18’s airframe has been improved to almost double its serviceable lifetime at 10,000 hours — making it both mission- and cost-effective.
Simultaneously investing in the F-18 Super Hornet while developing next-generation aircraft is the only way to ensure security now and in the future. It sends a clear message to our adversaries that not only are we strong today, but we’re committed to strengthening our defense for generations to come. Continuing procurement of the F-18 also helps to keep defense budgets under control, allowing our pilots to perform missions and train at lower taxpayer cost.
By cutting funding for the F-18, the Pentagon is gambling with national security. Congress and the administration need to step up and ensure that our military is sufficiently equipped to keep America strong today and long into the future. Anything less is unacceptable.
By Red State•
If there was any doubt that SpaceX is working behind the curtain to pull strings on Capitol Hill, it’s all but been erased. The sudden groundswell of support in Washington for SpaceX’s policy objectives essentially confirms the effectiveness of Elon Musk’s lobbying campaign. But through the company’s recent political maneuver—purportedly calling in a favor from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith—SpaceX may have overplayed their hand. If Chairman Smith’s policy positions can be affected by the influence of private firms, is he properly situated as the head of oversight for the Armed Forces?
Over the past few years, Chairman Smith’s cozy relationship with SpaceX has been well documented. In Smith’s 2016 election, SpaceX was the third largest contributor to his campaign, supplying the Representative with an impressive $11,000 in funds. But the gravy train didn’t stop there. The following election cycle, SpaceX stepped up its game, nearly doubling its prior campaign contributions to the soon-to-be Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Throughout the 2018 race, SpaceX contributed a whopping $20,400 to Smith’s campaign. That’s certainly no small fee for Musk’s independent aerospace contracting firm.
There’s solid evidence to suggest that SpaceX’s political expenditures are strategically placed. Out of all the recipients of SpaceX’s 2018 political contributions, Adam Smith ranked as the second-highest beneficiary. SpaceX’s contributions to the future Chairman of the Armed Services Committee were only outpaced by those to Senator Dianne Feinstein, which totaled Continue reading
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing’s large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases.
The new missile is in flight testing and is a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, according to American defense officials.
The missile will be deployed in launchers that appear from the outside to be standard international shipping containers used throughout the world for moving millions of tons of goods, often on the deck of large freighters.
The YJ-18C is China’s version of the Club-K cruise missile built by Russia that also uses a launcher disguised as a shipping container. Israel also is working on a container-launched missile called the Lora.
Spokesmen for the Defense Intelligence Agency and Navy declined to comment.
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Two U.S. Ground-based Interceptor missiles destroyed a target in space during a successful test of the Pentagon’s strategic missile defense system on Monday.
The interceptor missiles were fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. In the first salvo-launch against a target intercontinental missile launched 4,000 miles away at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
The first GBI destroyed the target missile’s reentry vehicle and the second interceptor zeroed in on debris and blew up the largest piece in a precision kill, the MDA announced.
MDA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves called the first multiple-interceptor test a critical milestone for advancing the missile defense system.
“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do, and the results of this test provide evidence of the practicable use of the salvo doctrine within missile defense,” Greaves said.
By John Heubusch • The National Review
President Trump made headlines last week by walking out of his Hanoi summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The move came as a surprise, and many news outlets around the world have decried the summit. But Trump’s move recalled Ronald Reagan’s decision to walk out of an even higher-stakes summit, his 1986 Reykjavik meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev.
The two summits bear some similarities. Both were second rounds of negotiations with a foreign power to mitigate that power’s nuclear threat. Both presidents faced a Communist leader abroad and pressure for a deal back home. And both presidents made the right call in walking out to preserve their position of strength.
During the Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev pressed Reagan to scrap research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The initiative was a crucial point for Reagan. It served as the genesis of the effort that to this day provides some limited capability for the United States to protect itself from foreign ballistic-missile attack. The program had been allowed under previous treaties, and so Reagan refused Gorbachev’s demand, ending the summit. Afterward, Reagan explained his thinking to the American people: “I went to Reykjavik determined that everything was negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future.” SDI was an integral part of that future, so Reagan stood firm.
Similarly, Kim Jong-un pressed Trump to lessen sanctions on North Korea as a precondition for any denuclearization. The United Nations–implemented sanctions had been key to pushing North Korea to the negotiating table in the first place, and Trump rightly recognized that they were his key source of leverage. Without a firm, enforceable process in place for denuclearization, history proves there can be no assurance that North Korea will stay true to its word. Weakening or scrapping the sanctions before that process has begun would be an enormous misstep. So Trump walked.
The pre-Trump policy of continuous sanctions with no communication or negotiation is no longer an option, because Trump has given Kim legitimacy by opening negotiations in a way Reagan likely never would have. But times and circumstances have changed. Despite leaving the negotiating table, Trump has maintained a cordial tone toward Chairman Kim in the days since the summit. He is clearly interested in cultivating a relationship for the future. And in the coming months, Trump would do well to continue drawing from the Reagan playbook.
To that end, his most pressing order of business is making goals and possible outcomes clear to Kim. Reagan laid out his goals in lengthy correspondence with Gorbachev. His “zero option” meant the elimination of intermediate-range missiles in Europe. He also refused to concede “our freedom and our future,” which to him included SDI. Trump needs to make his goals just as clear to Kim: Our future safety is not on the table, and denuclearization is a nonnegotiable first step to easing relations between North Korea and the rest of the world. While Trump touts his negotiating skills, he must have clear aims and be extensively prepared before any further summits occur.
Second, Trump must play hardball. Reagan imposed tough sanctions on the U.S.S.R. and commenced a massive military buildup, both for national-defense purposes and to further pressure the Russian economy and government. The mounting financial and political strain contributed both to Gorbachev’s willingness to negotiate and to the Soviet Union’s eventual collapse. Trump should increase sanctions and work hard to bring China and Russia on board with them for the same reasons. If it causes Kim to negotiate toward denuclearization, great. If it causes the regime to collapse, even better.
Finally, Reagan was willing to return to the negotiating table, even if he’d previously walked away without a deal. After Reykjavik, he said “we prefer no agreement than to bring home a bad agreement to the United States.” That’s why he was able to negotiate directly with Gorbachev three times after the summit collapsed and still win significant concessions. Trump, his top negotiators, and our legislators should likewise remain open to future talks. As long as America maintains its position of strength and is willing to walk away from a bad deal, we are unlikely to lose.
Trump’s talks with Pyongyang present a historic opportunity, but they are not without risk. If the president can maintain a Reaganesque resolve and continue to apply maximum pressure on the Kim regime, he may still be able to ensure a more prosperous future for North Korea and improved security for the people of the United States.