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.
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Russia has deployed a suspicious satellite the United States says is part of Moscow’s plans to attack orbiting satellites in a future conflict, a State Department official revealed in Geneva on Tuesday.
Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, made the accusation in a speech declaring Moscow is promoting a draft treaty aimed at banning arms in space while advancing an array of space weaponry.
Russia in October conducted tests of a “space apparatus inspector” that was detected by U.S. intelligence maneuvering and taking other unusual actions in space.
“Its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Poblete stated during a session of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament.
“We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared ‘space apparatus inspector.'” She did not elaborate on the suspect activities.
By Conor Beck • Washington Free Beacon
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii Wednesday night to mark the arrival of what is expected to be the remains of 55 American service members who died during the Korean War.
“We are gathered here at this honorable ceremony to receive 55 flag-draped cases which we trust include the remains of American heroes who fell in the Korean War,” Pence said at the beginning of his remarks. “Some have called the Korean War the forgotten War, but today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today our boys are coming home.”
The North Korean government claims the remains of 55 fallen service members were returned, but the U.S. will now begin the work of identifying the remains. The gesture comes after the historic summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. After the summit, Trump announced North Korea would return the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers from the Korean War back to the United States.
We shouldn't repeat past mistakes
The Trump Administration has set a new course for American leadership in space, prioritizing space exploration and innovation — a welcome and necessary change to U.S. policy. Reconstituting the National Space Council was an important first step. The President’s plan to develop a military space presence also deserves praise and thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, some of the specific proposals put forward so far miss the mark and risk undermining the ambitious goals the President has set.
The Administration’s proposal to move space authorities from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to a new “Space Administration” within the Department of Commerce, for example, is a monumentally terrible idea. The proposed move creates a massive new bureaucracy at a federal department with a terrible track record on cost overruns and management of programs, and little experience executing the task being contemplated.
For years, the Department of Commerce has mismanaged its limited space programs including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Office of Space Commerce’s commercial remote sensing regulations. Of course, the Department of Commerce has other, more well-known boondoggles to consider including the Census, Economic Development Administration and International Trade Administration. Continue reading
Boeing plans to begin delivering the new high-tech KC-46 Pegasus Tanker to the U.S. Air Force in the very near future.
There have been exhaustive tests, and the data from those tests has been turned over to the FAA and the Pentagon for final certification. Depending on how long it takes the government to review the data and provide the required certifications, the new tanker will be flying and refueling soon. This is great news because the planes that the new tanker will be replacing are on average 55 years old and many date back to the Eisenhower Administration.
It may surprise some to hear that the KC-46 Pegasus Tanker is a good news story on many different levels. Why a surprise? Because some treat every development challenge as a failure — even when those challenges are overcome and the final product is spectacular. Additionally, some contract bureaucrats inside the Pentagon Continue reading
The defense industry and foreign competitors
For a man of many tag lines, it’s one of his most popular.
“Buy American” is right up there with “Make America Great Again” when President Trump takes to the podium or opens up his Twitter app. Mr. Trump is most at home making a strong case for American workers, and the businesses that employ them.
“I’m here to deliver a simple message: there has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” Mr. Trump told the “global elite?” crowd in Davos just weeks ago.
But for those who watch the defense industry closely, the refrain raises a curious question: Will Mr. Trump’s “Buy American” campaign apply to the U.S. Air Force?
This year the Air Force will select a new jet to replace their aging 1960s-era T-38 trainer fleet with 350 new aircraft and the accompanying ground-training systems. With an expected Continue reading
by Megan G. Opera • The Federalist
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent shockwaves through the foreign policy establishment this week when he suggested that the United States is prepared, for the first time, to come to the negotiating table with North Korea without any preconditions or promises from Pyongyang that it would halt, even if just temporarily, its nuclear program.
Tillerson’s startling comments, which mark a major departure from U.S. policy and part significantly with President Trump’s views on the North Korea crisis, signal that Pyongyang is truly on the cusp of having a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and that a military conflict might be fast approaching.
On Monday, an analysis was released by “38 North,” a U.S. website specializing in North Korea, indicating Pyongyang may be getting ready to test another nuclear weapon. The country’s last test, in early September, was estimated to have been 17 times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
The September test resulted in a fresh round of international sanctions, which, apparently, have done nothing to deter the hermit kingdom from moving ahead apace with its nuclear program. North Korea is similarly catapulting forward with its ICBM program, making steady progress and demonstrating this year that it now has the capability to reach the entire continental United States.
China Is Making Contingency Plans Continue reading
by Mackubin Owens • American Greatness
President Trump’s selection of Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his national security adviser has been widely praised, and rightly so. McMaster is a remarkable man cut from the same cloth as the new secretary of defense, Jim Mattis. Both are inspirational leaders. Both are thoughtful, well-read “soldier-scholars.” Both are clear thinkers and straight talkers. Indeed, McMaster’s intense, fierce outspokenness has not always endeared him to his superiors.
McMaster’s story has been recounted many times in recent days. A native of Philadelphia, he is a 1984 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. Later, he earned a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying under Richard Kohn, the eminent military historian and civil-military relations expert. His doctoral dissertation became Dereliction of Duty, a withering critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War.
As a captain commanding an armored cavalry troop during the first Gulf War, McMaster proved himself to be an aggressive, fearless leader. Continue reading
by Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
U.S. adversaries are rapidly catching up to America’s fifth generation fighter aircraft capabilities—a risk that has exacerbated given ongoing cyber vulnerabilities in the F-35 fighter jet program, according to an Air Force major general.
Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris Jr., the vice commander of Air Combat Command at the Langley, Va., base, said Thursday that while the United States maintains an advantage in the stealth and weapons capacities inherent in fifth generation fighter aircraft models, adversaries are “quickly closing the gap.”
“We are trying to maximize our ability to procure fifth generation airplanes and go from a 100 percent fourth generation fleet to a significant mix of fifth generation [planes] so that we have the opportunity to operate in these hostile environments against these threats that are catching us faster than we thought they would,” Harris testified before the House Armed Services Committee. Continue reading
By George Landrith • American Military News
North Korea has test fired five new missiles and claims to have successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Iran too is racing towards nuclear weapons and advanced missile technology. Around the globe, risks are increasing. As a result, deterrence is more important than ever.
There was a time when deterrence simply meant having retaliatory nuclear weapons. But the risks are far more complex than a generation ago. Maintaining a strong and credible nuclear deterrent is absolutely necessary. But by itself, it is not enough. Today, the risks are too varied to have a single solution. The US must have a robust, multifaceted, broad-based deterrent to stop the world’s evil doers. A modern military deterrent includes: (i) a strong up-to-date nuclear threat; (ii) a robust multi-layered missile defense; and (iii) a powerful conventional military force that can meet any threat and defeat any foe.
The need for a nuclear deterrent is clear. If any nation is tempted to use nuclear weapons, they must know that the retaliatory nuclear strike that would follow, would be devastating. With our nuclear weapons aging and more than a generation old, however, we must make needed upgrades to our nuclear triad. Continue reading
From a weakened trans-Atlantic alliance to an increasingly fractious Middle East
by Ian Bremmer • Time
At the beginning of each year Eurasia Group, the political risk consultancy I founded and oversee, publishes a list of the top 10 political risk stories for the 12 months ahead. These are the risks and trends we believe are most likely to move markets in 2016. We’ve opened the year with a serious spat between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a horrible day for markets in China. But our #1 risk centers on erosion of the partnership that has provided a lot of global stability over many years.
1. The Hollow Alliance
The trans-Atlantic partnership has been the world’s most important alliance for nearly seventy years, but it’s now weaker and less relevant than at any point in decades. The U.S. no longer plays a decisive role in addressing any of Europe’s top priorities. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the conflict in Syria will expose U.S.-European divisions. As U.S. and European paths diverge, there will be no one to play international fireman—and conflicts particularly in the Middle East will be left to rage.
2. Closed Europe
In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe—and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the European Union was founded. Europe’s open borders will face particular pressure. The risk of Britain’s exit from the E.U. is underestimated. Europe’s economics will hold together in 2016, but its broader meaning and its social fabric will not. Continue reading
by Yeganeh Torbati • Reuters
Addressing concerns that a landmark nuclear deal reached this year could boost Iran’s military power, the Obama administration reassured critics that it would maintain and enforce its remaining tough sanctions against the country.
Yet the U.S. government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in the past year compared to recent years, according to a review of court records and interviews with two senior officials involved in sanctions enforcement.
The sharp fall in new prosecutions did not reflect fewer attempts by Iran to break the embargo, the officials said. Rather, uncertainty among prosecutors and agents on how the terms of the deal would affect cases made them reluctant to commit already scarce resources with the same vigor as in previous years, the officials said. Continue reading