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
Freedom and opportunity are on the horizon with a new crop of principled, capable and positive conservatives.
by George Landrith
In the past few weeks and the next couple weeks, we will see most of the expected entrants into the GOP presidential sweepstakes make their plans official. The GOP bench is deep with a number of highly credible and well qualified potential nominees. Part of this deep bench is the result of the conservatives doing well in a majority of the non-presidential and state elections during President Barack Obama’s time in office. The GOP has gained 70 seats in Congress and 910 state legislators around the nation since Barack Obama took office.
If you’re a conservative, there is a lot more good news on the horizon. That deep bench of well-qualified and highly credible candidates is revealing itself in congressional elections around the nation. Speaking with campaign experts around the nation, one thing is clear — the GOP has a bumper crop of great conservative candidates.
I can’t write about each of them, but perhaps I can pick one that caught my eye and shows real promise. In Florida’s 18th Congressional District, an established name is retiring from the House of Representatives to pursue the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Marco Rubio. Rick Kozell has announced his candidacy for the open congressional seat in the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach area.
Here’s what I like about Rick Kozell — he’s an optimistic, principled conservative with a winning vision for the future. He reminds me of a young Ronald Reagan. The press will have a hard time casting him as the stereotypical angry conservative. Kozell is affable, young, smart, and articulate. His smile is natural and his energy and enthusiasm are obvious. Continue reading
by Peter Huessy
Conventional wisdom in our nation’s Capital mistakenly holds that nuclear weapons are not useful in deterring our adversaries, not relevant to meeting new terrorist threats, and not valuable tools of overall American and allied statecraft.
The threats from Ukraine, Ebola and the ISIS are mistakenly used to make the case that nuclear weapons cannot deter most threats to the United States. We are assured the only role our nuclear weapons should play is to stop another country from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons.
From this mistaken idea flows the further conclusion the US needs only a very small deterrent of nuclear warheads for deterrence, some seventy to eighty percent less than what we have deployed today.* Continue reading
by Michael Barone • The Washington Examiner
If anyone had any doubts that most members of Congress oppose the Obama administration’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, they can put them aside after viewing the response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress Tuesday.
Fifty-some Democratic members chose not to attend. Joe Biden arranged to be out of town, and Barack Obama let it be known that he didn’t even have time to watch on television. But the House chamber was packed, the galleries were filled and Netanyahu was interrupted multiple times not only with applause but boisterous cheers.
In negotiations with Iran, continued beyond two previously proclaimed deadlines, Obama has dropped demands that Iran disassemble centrifuges needed to produce nuclear weapons material. And he has proposed a 10-year time limit on the deal. Continue reading
by George Landrith • Townhall
The US and several other nations have been in “talks” in hopes of negotiating with Iran to stop its nuclear program in exchange for lifting the UN sanctions. But those negotiations have gone no-where. On Monday, the deadline came and went without an agreement.
Extending the deadline to permit more “talks” will not likely protect a single person. It just gives Iran more time to develop a bomb. Why would Iran agree to limit itself when obtaining the bomb will allow it to threaten its way out of sanctions? Even if Iran were to agree to something, there is virtually no chance that the Mullahcracy will keep its promise when they are so close to obtaining the bomb they clearly covet. Continue reading
By Peter R. Huessy
On September 18th, a senior group of professional nuclear deterrent experts gathered in Washington, D.C. to hear the top nuclear deterrent and policy leaders in the country’s military and civilian leaders to discuss the challenges we face in the future to keep America and her allies and friends safe and secure. One speech at the event in particular was noteworthy and that was from Chairman Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Sub-Committee. He addressed the “Fifth Bi-Annual Triad Conference on The Strategic Nuclear Enterprise: Implementing the Roadmap Ahead”, an event sponsored by the Task Force 21, Minot in association with the Air Force Association and Geo-Strategic Analysis.
Of particular note was Chairman Roger’s remarks that the continued aggression by the Russians had a way of “sharpening the mind “as the “international system led by the United States has its hands full.” Here are the Chairman’s remarks.
Chairman Mike Rogers, “The Strategic Nuclear Enterprise: Implementing the Roadmap Ahead”, September 18, 2014
These gatherings are an important means of communication and discussion on the future of the strategic deterrent, and I thank you for inviting me.
We meet at an interesting time for nuclear deterrence and strategic issues—to say the least.
I don’t have to tick through the list for this crowd, but I can summarize by saying our friend over in Russia has a way of sharpening the mind.
Coupled with the challenge of China in the Pacific and the Islamic State’s acute threat to stability in the Middle East, the U.S.-led international system has its hands full.
Interestingly, some have commented that we may be witnessing a return to the normal state of international affairs.
After a suspension of history for the past couple decades where non-state actors often took center stage, we’re seeing a return to an international order where nation-states—and the interaction between them—play the paramount role in world affairs.
Perhaps it is fitting that this occurs on the 100th anniversary of the so-called “War to End All Wars.”
As this shift occurs, the strategic issues to which you and I pay so much attention will once again come to the forefront.
Today we’re talking about something that, almost by definition, is fundamental to strategic affairs: the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
We all know that the people, infrastructure, delivery systems, weapons, and policies that comprise this deterrent have seen their share of turmoil lately.
But, there may be grounds for optimism that the turmoil will subside.
Much of this has been self-inflicted by the political and budget dysfunction here in Washington.
And, I am hopeful that—perhaps in the new year—Congress will be able to find that budget solution.
That’s step number one.
Step number two is ensuring that we invest in a wise and prudent manner to ensure we have a robust and dominant deterrent.
The Strategic Forces Subcommittee that I lead has been in the forefront on this. Through both legislation and oversight we’ve been pushing the system to achieve our goals.
Obviously, we have more work to do.
When compared with the commitments made by the Administration to win ratification of the New START treaty, the NNSA remains dramatically underfunded by over $2 billion.
More important than just the funding shortfall: important life extension programs and infrastructure modernization projects have been delayed, deferred, or canceled.
Efforts to find efficiencies within the NNSA have been—for the most part—stymied.
We will continue to push the NNSA enterprise to streamline, reduce bureaucracy, and deliver for the military and the nation. They have an able leader over there now in General Klotz.
And, I’ve got a subcommittee that is eager for change.
I look forward to the results of the congressional advisory panel and working with my colleagues and NNSA leadership to see how we can help.
Across the river at the Department of Defense, we’ve seen delays to delivery systems, including the Ohio-class replacement submarine and the long-range cruise missile (known as LRSO).
I continue to believe we, as a nation, will come to regret these two decisions in particular.
The delays to these programs have taken all schedule margin out of some extremely complex and long-term acquisition programs.
My subcommittee unsuccessfully fought against the delay to Ohio-Replacement several years ago.
As it stands today, I am deeply concerned that we have more than 15 years to go before the first submarine hits the water—and in this town 15 years amounts to 15 separate times to screw up the budget and delay the program.
Right now, in this year’s defense authorization bill, we are fighting to prevent the proposed three-year delay to LRSO.
Everyone within the system seems to recognize why this delay is a terrible idea: a fragile legacy system coupled with steadily advancing adversary air defense capabilities.
Not to mention a problem it creates in the form of a gap in production activities at NNSA.
I am hopeful we can contain the LRSO schedule slip to one year, as I proposed in the House-passed FY15 NDAA and as the military thinks it can accept.
Regarding the force structure we will have under New START, we should all be grateful that the Administration’s long-overdue decision in April of this year was the right one.
I say “right one” because it is the position my subcommittee has been pushing toward since the ink dried on the treaty.
So, the Navy will move to 20 deployed missile tubes in each boat, and the Air Force will remove missiles from 50 Minuteman silos—but keep the silos warm.
This course of action not only retains maximum flexibility and complicates adversary targeting, it also enables the Air Force to go in and refurbish silos on a rotating basis.
This will ease logistics in the missile fields and facilitate the transition to the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) system that will come along in the late-2020s.
With Russia having said a firm “nyet” to the President’s offer for further reductions—and there being no clear evidence that further reductions are in the U.S. national security interest in the first place—it is time to get on with the business of building our force for the future.
Speaking of the GBSD, I was pleased to see the recent results of the analysis of alternatives.
After a comprehensive look at the range of options, the Air Force is recommending a solution that utilizes the existing silos, focuses on leveraging technologies across the Services, and preserves options for the future.
All for basically the same amount that we’re spending today on the current system.
This is a reasonable investment and—importantly—costs essentially the same as simply continuing to life-extend the current Minuteman system out into the future.
We are also seeing a renewed focus from the Air Force on its nuclear mission.
This is the silver lining in the otherwise dark cloud of the missileer cheating that came to light last year.
It also provides the Air Force an opportunity to prove that it sees itself as more than just fighter jets.
That message needs to permeate the culture of the Air Force, from the cockpits to the staff offices, from the maintenance facilities, to the launch facilities, and the personnel system.
Secretary James and General Welsh, together with external and internal reviews conducted by DOD, have identified a series of actions.
Their focus on military personnel, morale, and leadership issues is a refreshing change from moving boxes on organization charts.
My subcommittee will remain supportive and…maybe the best phrase is optimistically-skeptical…of their efforts.
Let me close with a return to the strategic environment.
The challenges we face from Mr. Putin’s Russia are as real as they are grave.
A declining power, seeking to hold on to former glory by upending the international order, is immeasurably more dangerous when it is nuclear-armed. Let’s look at Russia’s recent actions:
· The illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine.
· Nuclear threats and open discussion of plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Crimea.
· The deliberate violation of the INF Treaty
· The circumvention of New START, Open Skies, and numerous other agreements.
· Kidnapping of intelligence officials from neighboring states.
And let’s not overlook China and its new ICBMs and submarine-based nuclear forces.
Nor can we overlook the perpetually unstable relationship between two nuclear powers in South Asia—one of which may be heading towards another coup.
Or the ever-perilous Kim regime in North Korea, or the nuclear intentions of Iran.
Or the lessons learned in capitals around the world subsequent to Libya and Ukraine giving up their nuclear capabilities.
In other words, nuclear weapons will be with us for quite some time.
We need to recognize this. We need to recognize that the world is not about to come together and sing “kumbaya” as some hope it will.
We need to approach strategic affairs with our eyes wide open and with all of the tools we can bring to bear.
And the key tool upon which all else rests—and that we use every day—is a robust, flexible, and highly credible nuclear triad.
‘Spike’ in Bear H flights over past week seen as test of U.S. air defenses
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Russian strategic nuclear bombers conducted at least 16 incursions into northwestern U.S. air defense identification zones over the past 10 days, an unusually sharp increase in aerial penetrations, according to U.S. defense officials.
The numerous flight encounters by Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers prompted the scrambling of U.S. jet fighters on several occasions, and come amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.
Also, during one bomber incursion near Alaska, a Russian intelligence-gathering jet was detected along with the bombers. Continue reading