Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv, Nov. 20, 2023.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is greeted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit to Kyiv, Nov. 20, 2023. DOD / Chad J. McNeeley

Defense Business Brief: Ukraine aid; F-16 backlog; Chaos at OpenAI; and more...

The White House will host a conference for American and Ukrainian defense companies in December, the latest show of U.S. support for Ukraine. 

The conference comes on the heels of an Ukraine-hosted international defense industry forum in September and is designed “to significantly increase weapons production to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom and security,” according to the Friday announcement.  

The Defense Department, State Department, Commerce Department, and National Security Council—and their Ukraine counterparts—will join the two-day conference, which starts Dec. 6. The Pentagon will also host a Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and representation from about 50 nations to enhance international collaboration.

The White House is working overtime to make sure support to Ukraine doesn’t waver as the Israel-Hamas war diverts attention—and weapons. In the meantime, Ukraine has been hunting for more arms, and sometimes paying high prices to get them as supplies dwindle. 

To reassure Ukraine, Austin made a surprise visit to the country Monday to meet with leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and discuss the weapons the military forces will need through the winter. 

“I think they are prepared for combat in the winter, and certainly, they did a great job last year,” Austin told reporters Monday. The aim is for them to be “even more aggressive” this year.

The latest $100 million aid package the U.S. will send Ukraine includes

  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles;
  • A High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, and ammunition;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided, or TOW, missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • More than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Cold weather gear; and
  • Spare parts, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.

The White House has also asked for $106 billion in a controversial supplemental funding request that would provide even more support for Ukraine. Austin has previously said that failing to pass that funding bill would almost certainly secure a Russian victory.

“There are some things that we need to continue to work through to get the supplemental request approved,” and answer lawmakers' “valid questions,” Austin said Monday. 

But ultimately, this support is bigger than Ukraine, he argued.

“What happens here matters not just to Ukraine, but to the entire world. This is about the rules-based international order. This is about…not living in a world where a dictator can wake up one day and decide to annex the property of his peaceful neighbor. That's not the world that we want to live in.”


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Congress pushes Air Force on F-16 backlog

Lawmakers want to get to the bottom of the backlog of F-16 fighter jets the U.S. owes Taiwan. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, along with 23 other representatives, recently pressed Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to address delivery delays.

“Taiwan urgently needs these new and upgraded aircraft, and a stronger, more resilient Taiwan will improve stability across the Taiwan Strait,” the members of Congress wrote in a letter. “We cannot afford to over-promise and under-deliver to our closest friends.”

Chaos at ChatGPT headquarters

The company that brought the world ChatGPT is going through some serious changes. In just a weekend, OpenAI lost its CEO Sam Altman and nearly all of its employees threatened to quit in protest. On Monday, more than 700 of the company's employees signed a letter saying they’d leave unless the current board resigned and Altman—who was booted from his CEO seat and instead took a job at Microsoft—was reinstated. Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s ex-president, also quit in solidarity with Altman and joined Microsoft. Following the news and rumors that Altman may return to OpenAI, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the cloud giant is committed to working with OpenAI and Altman, “irrespective of where Sam is.”

New report finds increasingly tense China-U.S. ties

The strategic competition between the U.S. and China is showing no signs of cooling off, even as the countries’ leaders try to mend their relationship. A new congressional report found that China was seeking to shape international norms in AI, cyber, intelligence, and space, as well as other areas. 

The annual report, produced by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, comes as President Joe Biden and China’s president, Xi Jinping, met in person and agreed to smooth over parts of their relationship, including restoring military-to-military communications and nuclear arms control talks. But those talks are likely to ring hollow, according to the commission.

“The result of high-level meetings between the United States and China has been merely the promise of further meetings—that is, of more talk rather than concrete actions,” the report states. “China now appears to view diplomacy with the United States primarily as a tool for forestalling and delaying U.S. pressure over a period of years while China moves ever further down the path of developing its own economic, military, and technological capabilities.”

Making moves

Elana Broitman, the former New York City director of the think tank New America, is now a senior advisor for the Roosevelt Group, a consulting firm focused on national defense, intelligence, and homeland security. Broitman previously served as deputy assistant defense secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy and helped foster partnerships with technology sectors from additive manufacturing to photonics.