The agenda for this year’s Reagan National Defense Forum is fixed firmly on the future, even as Congress struggles to pass a budget for the fiscal year that began more than two months ago. Meanwhile, its organizers have released their annual national security-themed public-opinion survey.
Perhaps its most eye-popping finding: 28% of Americans surveyed said that Russia is a U.S. ally. Belief in that falsehood is up from 19% last year. Still, 71% called Russia a threat to America, and 25% called it the greatest threat. But more people — 60% of those surveyed, called China the largest threat.
- “Americans identify cyberattacks as the top near-term threat. Almost nine in ten Americans are concerned about cyberattacks on government, and nearly as many are concerned about cyberattacks on personal computers and accounts.”
- “More Americans are concerned about Russia sponsoring cyberattacks than aiding rogue regimes, interfering in our elections, or invading its neighbors.”
- “A majority of Americans support an overseas military presence, with 65% saying it is better for the United States to maintain bases around the world and only 28% supporting a reduced military presence overseas.”
Forum attendees are slated to include:
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper
- Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security advisor
- Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy; Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett
- Joint Chiefs: Gen. James McConville (Army); Gen. David Berger (USMC); Gen. Dave Goldfein (USAF)
- Combatant commanders: Adm. Philip Davidson(Indo-Pacom); Gen. Paul Nakasone (Cybercom, NSA)
- Other DoD leaders: Dana Deasy (CIO) John Rood (policy) and Ellen Lord (acquisition), Kari Bingen (intelligence)
- Industry execs from Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, L3Harris, BAE Systems, Microsoft, Textron Systems, United Launch Alliance, Cubic, AM General, Leonardo DRS, Palantir, Sierra Nevada, Booz Allen Hamilton, Atlas Air, MDBA, Thales USA
- More than 30 U.S. lawmakers
- The defense ministers of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Singapore, and Sweden.
I’ll be moderating Saturday’s 1:40 p.m. panel: “Strengthening Nuclear Deterrence: Modernizing the Triad and Sustaining Arms Control in a Post-INF World.” Panelists include Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, National Nuclear Security Administration administrator, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. Watch it live, here.
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Russia-Turkey in Talks for More Weapon Sales
S-400 missile interceptors might just be the beginning of arms deals between Moscow and Ankara, according to a Reuters report, citing the Russian RIA state-run news organization. “Rosoboronexport’s Alexander Mikheev told RIA news agency Moscow and Ankara were actively discussing Ankara taking up an option in the original contract for it to receive more S-400 systems, with talks focused on financial questions,” Reuters reports. “We hope that in the first half of 2020 we will sign the contract documents,” RIA cited Mikheev as saying. “But I want to stress that military technical cooperation with Turkey is not limited to the supply of the S-400s. We have big plans ahead.”
Sobering Assessment of Navy Shipyards
Over the past five years, Navy warships have spent some 33,700 more days in maintenance than expected, according to the Government Accountability Office. Do the math, and that’s more than 92 years in maintenance delays. “The Navy was unable to complete scheduled ship maintenance on time for about 75 percent of the maintenance periods conducted during fiscal years 2014 through 2019, with more than half of the delays in fiscal year 2019 exceeding 90 days,” GAO’s Diana Maurer wrote in prepared testimony for the Senate Armed Services seapower and readiness subcommittees. “When maintenance is not completed on time, fewer ships are available for training or operations, which can hinder readiness.” The Navy’s plan to improve those metrics will take 20 years and $21 billion, according to a new GAO report. Shortening maintenance was a top priority for former Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Navy Inks $22B Sub Purchase
The Navy on Monday signed a $22.2 billion deal with General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls for nine Virginia-class submarines. The deal has an option for a tenth sub, which could increase the total value to $22.4 billion.
Christening the Kennedy
Caroline Kennedy will christen a new aircraft carrier named for her father this Saturday at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding. As a 9-year-old in 1967, she helped her mother and brother christen the first USS John F. Kennedy.
Air Force Gets Started on New ‘Doomsday Plane’
The Air Force is planning an industry day to talk about the plane that will replace the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center. The new plane has been dubbed the Survivable Airborne Operations Center, or SAOC (presumably pronounced say-ock). The plane will be a “new, cost-effective, commercial derivative aircraft” — aka something that already exists, like a new Boeing 747-8, which, by the way, appears to be nearing the end of its production run. The four 1970s-era E-4Bs need so much additional maintenance that they’re no longer flying the defense secretary on overseas trips.
Lockheed Gets $1B Hypersonic Weapon Deal
The Pentagon is continuing its investment in hypersonic weapons, awarding Lockheed Martin a $989 million deal for the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon. The “boost-glide” weapon is undergoing tests at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Air Force Magazine reports.
Military: Send Us Ideas for Using 5G
The info “will inform the creation and issuance of formal Requests for Prototype Proposals related to testing and experimentation projects focusing on 5G Dynamic Spectrum Sharing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Smart Warehouse and Asset Management at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia,” the Pentagon said in a Nov. 29 statement. The military intends to conduct 5G tech trials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Naval Base San Diego, California. “DoD, in coordination with industry, will develop and mature spectrum access technologies that enable improved cognizance of spectrum activity, protection of U.S. activity in the electromagnetic spectrum domain and provide the ability to relocate and/or share spectrum anytime and anywhere access is denied,” the Pentagon said in a Nov. 29 statement.
Bezos’ Other Protest
Amazon is famously contesting the Pentagon’s choice of Microsoft for its $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract, but it’s not the only Jeff Bezos-owned company with a contracting beef. After rocket maker Blue Origin challenged the Air Force’s method for evaluating prospective launch providers, GAO concurred, saying:
“In summary, we find that the [Air Force’s request for proposals] anticipated ‘when combined’ best-value methodology fails to provide offerors with an intelligible and common basis for competition. We recommend that the Air Force amend the solicitation consistent with our decision and the requirements of applicable procurement law and regulation. We also recommend that the agency reimburse the protester its respective costs associated with filing and pursuing its protest, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.”
Blue Origin is competing with United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman, and (also billionaire-owned) SpaceX for the jobs.
Private equity firm AE Industrial Partners has acquired AIM MRO, “a leading manufacturer and supply chain manager of highly engineered consumable repair products and materials used primarily in the aerospace engine aftermarket.” It’s the private equity firm’s fifth acquisition this year.
The White House announced Thursday that President Trump plans to nominate James McPherson, the U.S. Army general council, to be Army undersecretary. A retired rear admiral who served as the Navy’s top JAG, McPherson has been serving as Army undersecretary since Ryan McCarthy moved up to the Army’s top job over the summer.
The White House announced on Nov. 25 that President Trump plans to nominate Charles Williams, a retired rear admiral, to be an assistant secretary of the Navy for installations, energy and the environment. Williams retired from the Navy in 2005.
Boeing PR executive Anne Toulouse will retire from the company’s top communications post at the end of the year, Boeing announced.
The Aerospace Industries Association will honor longtime Northrop Grumman spokesman Brandon “Randy” Belote with the 2019 Lauren “Deac” Lyman award “for outstanding achievement in aerospace communications.”