Defense budget caps on ice; On the road with DepSecDef Shanahan; Ellen Lord’s thoughts on autonomy and R&D; and more.

By Marcus Weisgerber

February 8, 2018

It looks like the Budget Control Act will be neutralized for two fiscal years, though it may return to bedevil defense hawks in 2020 and 2021. So indulge me for one last musing about a pending government shutdown (which technically still looms at midnight, though Congress intends to pass a temporary funding measure today). We can reconvene on the subject next year when the debt-ceiling limit comes back into sight.

In the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force C-40 Clipper — a military version of the Boeing 737 jetliner — the #avgeek in me wanted to talk about the flight controls, avionics, and the nifty mapping app on the iPad. But somewhere high over Arizona, the pilots turned the conversation to the odds of a government shutdown.

The discussion centered around how shutdowns affect day-to-day military operations, furloughs for civilians while troops keep working and not knowing if they’ll get paid for it, and contract pauses that create expensive delays.

It’s not the first time that worries about shutdown, budget caps, or sequestration have cropped up in unexpected places. There was the time I was in Kabul, Afghanistan, with then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012. Again with Panetta in 2013, this time in Vicenza, Italy.  We in Washington hear about the impact of budget instability from the political suits and military brass frequently, but those concerns seem to carry more meaning when they come from a grunt or someone well down in the food chain.

Important Budget Dates


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From Defense One

Two-Year Budget Deal Would Raise Caps, Give Pentagon $700B in 2018 // Caroline Houck and Marcus Weisgerber

The deal comes with a new continuing resolution to give House and Senate lawmakers time to work out details.

Pentagon Warns CEOs: Protect Your Data or Lose Our Contracts // Marcus Weisgerber

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says cybersecurity should be a top priority for its contractors.

US Air Force Looks For New Ways to Buy, Protect Satellites // Marcus Weisgerber

Ideas include smaller constellations — perhaps even spacecraft built to commercial standards.

Two Days with Patrick Shanahan

I spent a rather whirlwind 39 hours traveling with the deputy defense secretary to Colorado Springs and San Diego this week. For Shanahan, whose previous two Pentagon trips were mostly to stand in for his boss James Mattis (at the Reagan National Defense Forum and a U.N. peacekeeping ministerial in Vancouver), this week allowed him to focus on some of his pet issues. Here are some takeaways.

Ellen Lord On Autonomy

The new undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment talked to a few reporters last week, on Feb. 1, the day the former office of the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics split in two. Since there’s been a lot written about that, I asked her about artificial intelligence and autonomy, two words we’re hearing a lot these days.

Arms for Finland

The State Department approved two big arms sales to Finland: one for $640 million worth of Harpoon ship-launched missiles and the other for $112.7 million in Sea Sparrow missiles.

Making Moves

Rachel Stohl has been appointed managing director of the Stimson Center. She will oversee the strategic direction of the think tank’s “growing “Promoting Security and Prosperity” portfolio of programming around the world, including the Trade, Technology, and Security program; and WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security program.” She will continue to direct the Stimson Center's Conventional Defense program.  

Raytheon named Kelsey DeBriyn vice president of investor relations. DeBriyn joined Raytheon in October as a senior director of investor relations. Before that she was at an equity research analyst covering aerospace and defense and other industrial sectors at BlackRock. She replaces Todd Ernst, who was named vice president of corporate development in October.

By Marcus Weisgerber // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials.

February 8, 2018