Defense Watch: Inhofe Bullish on SECAF Future , AUSA Week, Aviation Mishaps

SASC Chair Pushes Back on SECAF Rumors. SASC Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Friday that he did not believe a Thursday report by Foreign Policy that President Trump is considering ousting Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson over her pushback to his desired Space Force. “I did not hear what he said about that, but … he has the utmost respect for the capability of Heather, and so I think that that might not be his intention,” Inhofe told Defense Daily, adding, “She’s good.” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the allegation was “utter nonsense” in an emailed statement Friday.

Report Rates U.S. Military Strength as ‘Marginal.’ The Heritage Foundation’s annually issued Index of U.S. Military Strength report, released Thursday, found that the average state of the U.S. services’ capacity, capability and readiness to be “marginal,” meaning the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps were overall between 40 and 59 percent able to meet each service’s requirements for current or future conflict. Dakota Wood, a retired Marine Corps officer and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the U.S. military is currently equipped to meet one major conflict, but would have to gather in global forces to do so, leaving other areas of interest less prepared. Each service should double its combat power “so that you can actually handle a major crisis in one part of the world, and still have enough left over to … deter behavior … handle bilateral exercises, training evolutions, experimentations,” he said.

AUSA. The Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition kicks off on  Oct. 8 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are expected to address goals for the Army’s new Futures Command and provide details on updated timelines for the service’s six modernization priorities, including Future Vertical Lift and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle. Leaders from each of the Cross Functional Teams, charged with running the modernization efforts, will provide briefings on potential requirements, timelines and acquisition strategies. Over 700 exhibitors will be in attendance highlighting the latest in Army platforms and future technologies.

STRATCOM Expands Space Data Access. STRATCOM announced Friday that it has expanded access to its space situational awareness data on, offering registered users additional data regarding certain space objects that has not been previously available. The move is meant to enhance SSA data sharing, transparency and space-flight safety, according to a command press release. It is based on guidance in Space Policy Directive-3 that supports the Department of Commerce’s transition to the leading U.S. authority for space tragic management, and was enacted in support of the DoD’s space partnership and coordination initiative.

DOD to Industry Partners: Cyber-Proof Yourselves. Amid several recommendations made in a new DoD-led report assessing the health of the defense industrial base, Pentagon leaders are looking to tell contractors to take greater initiative when it comes to the cybersecurity of their systems and those of their supply chain. Eric Chewning, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, told reporters Thursday that industry needs to recognize that “you’re essentially at the tip of the spear of this equation, and we need you and we’re going to assume that you’re going to be able to secure yourself.” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said that DoD is considering helping smaller businesses lower down in the supply chain acquire “secure computing environments "as a means of improving their cyber hygiene. “We understand that some of the small, innovative companies do have a financial challenge to put in the types of system controls that we need,” she added.

New Counterterrorism Strategy. The Trump administration last Thursday rolled out a new National Strategy for Counterterrorism that has multiple lines of effort, including pursuing terrorist threats to their source, isolating terrorists from the sources of support, modernizing more tools to thwart the threats, protecting U.S. infrastructure and enhancing preparedness, countering radicalization and recruitment, and strengthening the counterterrorism abilities of international partners. National Security Adviser John Bolton says that the “preeminent transnational terrorist threat” to the U.S. and its interests is radical Islamic terrorist groups. The Islamic State is the “foremost” of these groups, the 34-page strategy says.

…Central Banker of Terrorism. Bolton, in an Oct. 4 media briefing introducing the new strategy, said that Iran is the “world’s central banker of international terrorism, saying the country “remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism.” Terrorist groups sponsored by Iran that threaten the U.S. and its interests include Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he said.

…End States. The ultimate goals of U.S. counterterrorism efforts include the eliminating terrorist threats to the U.S., securing the nation’s borders from these threats, ensuring that the ideologies espoused by these don’t “undermine the American way of life,” and that U.S. international partners also play a role so that these threats don’t harm their and U.S. interests. Bolton said the “superficial attraction of their radical ideology” enables terrorist groups to recruit adherents in Western Europe and the U.S. without having to physically cross borders.

BAE Executive. BAE Systems has tapped Guy Montminy as the new president of its Platforms & Services sector following a leadership role as senior vice president and deputy general manager of the sector. Montminy, who assumed his new position on Oct. 1, succeeds Erwin Bieber, who will stay on as an adviser to the company until his retirement in 2019. Montminy has been with BAE for more than 30 years.

Navy Mishaps. The Commander of Naval Air Forces and of the Pacific Fleet’s Naval Air Force said in FY ‘18 overall ground mishap trends are not going in the right direction. "Class A and Class B mishaps are very consistent with previous years. Our Class C aviation ground mishaps are going in the wrong direction," Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller said Friday at a Center for Strategic and International studies event. He called this a "focus area" as readiness and safety dominate his time.  He attributed the problems to requiring more supervision and fewer "reps and sets" with the lower readiness. "So as readiness increases, reps and sets will increase, I think we will approach it."

…Marines Too. Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, at the same event noted some improvements on his side, but said they still have work to do. FY '17 was a terrible year for Marine air mishaps and "this year we cut our mishaps A, B, and C in half. So we didn’t have a great year, but we cut everything in half and we’re still concerned about making sure the pilots are trained." Rudder said the Marine Corps has not connected readiness levels to a specific mishap, "but we fully understand that reps and sets, flight time, allows that pilot to react differently."

CVN-65 Disposal. Adm. James Caldwell, director of the naval nuclear propulsion program, said last week the Navy will not have a preferred option to dispose of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for upward of a year. Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event, Caldwell said, "we're studying options to see what’s affordable. We have an environmental impact statement that we're working on right now to look at several alternatives." He added that while the Navy does not currently have a preferred alternative "we’re working our way through that. I think it’s going to take a year or more before we get the answer."

DDG-121. The Navy plans to christen the future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG-121) on Oct. 6 during a ceremony at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. DDG-121 will be the 71st Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and is the fifth of 21 destroyers currently under contract. The Petersen is a Flight IIA destroyer and will be equipped with the Aegis Combat System and a Cooperative Engagement Capability that, combined, will help groups of aircraft and ships link radars to create a more complete picture of the battlespace.

Northrop Cyber Prototyping. A Northrop Grumman team of cyber experts has won the first rapid prototyping event at Cyber Command’s new innovation facility. Cyber Command’s DreamPort, established in partnership with the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute (MISI), held a competition to test out solutions for detecting malware signature diversity in a simulated “cyber battlefield.” Northrop Grumman said their team demonstrated an ability to rapidly prototype a malware detection and attribution capability to accurately measure signatures. MISI has signed a five-year agreement with Cyber Command to operate DreamPort and hold rapid prototyping events to determine potential acquisition priorities.

DIB Actions. President Donald Trump last Friday was expected to authorize several actions related to his administration’s efforts to strengthen the defense industrial base (DIB), according to a senior administration official. The official, who briefed media on background Thursday evening, said Trump would sign at least two action items using existing unused Defense Production Act funding from the Obama administration toward closing gaps in the industrial base, including one to expand manufacturing capabilities for lithium seawater batteries, which are important in anti-submarine warfare, the official said. A second action item will be for “cutting edge fuel cells” that are important for the Navy’s future unmanned underwater vehicle, the official said. Title III of the Defense Production Act “is going to be a critical part of many of the actions we’ll be taking,” the official said. Additional actions beyond the two geared for the Navy are also underway, the official said.

New Laws. New authorities for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to counter threats from unmanned aircraft systems went into effect last Friday when President Donald Trump signed the five-year Federal Aviation Administration Act of 2018. The counter drone provisions of the law allow the departments to use technologies to defeat UAS around certain critical infrastructures and special events, and also enable DHS to begin testing technologies to mitigate drone threats. The bill also features a three-year reauthorization of the Transportation Security Administration, the first comprehensive legislative authority since the agency was created nearly 17 years ago.

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