Air Force secretary pushes back on Space Force, calls for 24% more squadrons. We’ll get to the news out of the Air Force Association’s big annual conference just outside Washington, D.C., but let’s talk first about a Space Force memo sent Friday by Secretary Heather Wilson.
$13B over five years. That’s the estimated cost of setting up the new service branch, Wilson writes to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who is driving the Pentagon’s Space Force effort. “In the 16-page memo, Wilson lays out her own plan for standing up the new branch of the U.S. military championed by President Trump. She also pushes back on various aspects of Shanahan’s Space Force plan,” writes Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber. “In particular, Wilson argues against the proposal to create a Space Development Agency to oversee satellite acquisition and to establish a new top-level position in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.” Read on, here.
Let’s grow the service from 312 operational squadrons to 386 by 2030. That’s Wilson again, speaking Monday to the AFA audience. “This 24 percent increase in squadrons is the centerpiece of the service’s “Air Force We Need” proposal, which has been in the works for six months,” writes Air Force Times. “This proposal seeks to lay out what it would take for the Air Force to fight a peer adversary and win, as well as defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent, counter a medium-sized rogue nation that might try to take advantage of the Air Force’s focus on the major adversary, and fight violent extremists such as the Taliban and the Islamic State.”
But who’s going to pay for that? Defense News wonders.
Reorganize the squadrons. One possibility is a return to composite squadrons of fighters, bombers, and support aircraft, Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of 12th Air Force said at AFA. More from Air Force Times, here.
New problems with new tanker. One week after the Air Force ordered its fourth batch of KC-46 aerial tankers, Defense News reports that two serious problems may delay initial deliveries. Read, here.
Also: SpaceX’s CEO says the company will consider launching space weapons if asked. Patrick Tucker reports.
And finally: Happy 71st birthday, U.S. Air Force.
From Defense One
Air Force Pushes Back on Pentagon’s First Blueprints for Trump’s Space Force // Marcus Weisgerber: In a pointed memo, Heather Wilson counters several Space Force proposals championed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
SpaceX: We’ll Consider Launching Space Weapons If Asked // Patrick Tucker: Elon Musk’s rocket startup says it might join the space arms race.
Retired Marine Four-Star Patents Jet-Killing Drone Boat // Patrick Tucker: John Allen also has a patent on a quadcopter mothership.
Congress’s Quantum Science Bill May Not Keep the US Military Ahead of China // Paulina Glass: China aims to “leapfrog” US military in 10 years with unhackable computers and stealth-defeating radar.
Trump Is Repeating Soviet Leaders’ Intel Mistakes // John Sipher, The Atlantic: Stalin ignored his spies when their findings contradicted his assumptions. Now the U.S. president is doing the same.
Welcome to this unredacted Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1944, U.S. B-17s dropped nearly 1,300 containers of supplies to the Polish army in Warsaw — the only major Western supply drop Russia allowed the allies in WWII.
Happening today in Washington: President Trump hosts a joint press conference with the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, at 2:10 p.m. EDT. The New York Times has a window into Polish domestic affairs and what could be on Duda’s mind today, here.
Later at 3 p.m., POTUS45 meets with SecState Mike Pompeo.
Happening today in North Korea: The inter-Korean summit (part three) returns from Pyongyang and extends over the next two days. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un even met his South Korean counterpart at the airport for this one, Yonhap News agency reported overnight.
The point of it all, according to Yonhap: “restarting U.S-North Korea talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Worth noting, per Yonhap separately: “Particularly noteworthy is that Moon was accompanied by the country’s four leading business tycoons, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, as well as heads of major infrastructure firms such as KORAIL, the national train operator, and the Korea Tourism Organization.”
Should the U.S. forge a “space partnership” with China? NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wasn’t opposed to the idea in an interview with Aerospace America on Monday. Granted, “in 2011 Congress banned NASA from working directly with China and has reauthorized the prohibition every subsequent budget cycle,” the question of cooperation with China in space maybe shouldn’t be written off entirely.
Up next for Bridenstine: He’s scheduled to travel “to Kazakhstan in October to meet his Roscosmos counterpart, Dmitry Rogozin, in person for the first time and watch NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin launch to the International Space Station aboard a Russian-built Soyuz rocket.” A bit more, here.
Humiliation for Moscow in Syria. Moscow is pissed at Israel because Syrian air defenses apparently shot down a Russian cargo plane on Monday, killing all 15 on board, the Washington Post reports. “The Israeli military said it holds the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fully responsible. It said Israeli fighter jets targeted a Syrian military facility in the port city of Latakia,” alleging the facility was about to host the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah from Iran.
According to Israel, “The Syrian antiaircraft batteries ‘fired indiscriminately’ and apparently ‘did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,’” a statement from the IDF read.
The downing of that aircraft happened shortly after Russia and Turkey agreed to the creation of “de-militarized zone” in the rebel-rich province of Idlib, the Post reported separately from Istanbul on Monday.
Known-knowns, such as they are: “The precise details of the agreement between Turkey and Russia were not publicly spelled out Monday. But [Russian President Vladimir] Putin said that a zone nine miles to 12 miles long would be carved out ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline. The zone, both [Turkish and Russian] leaders said, would be purged of heavy weapons and more-extreme elements of the insurgency, including al-Qaeda-linked militants. It also would be patrolled by Turkish and Russian forces.” A bit more, here.
In Iraq, there was reportedly a “distinct lack of discipline” at Balad Air Base, and a new report from The Daily Beast points the finger at Virginia-based contractor, Sallyport Global. The long and apparently quite ugly report begins here.
And finally, an ICYMI to close out the morning: a new precedent in declassification. Late Monday afternoon, President Trump moved “to release a tranche of former FBI Director James Comey’s text messages and declassify 20 pages of a surveillance application that targeted former campaign adviser Carter Page” plus other documents related to investigations into Trump’s Russian connections, Politico reported.
How soon? Maybe not so soon, according to a Justice Department spox who “suggested that Trump was solely setting in motion a process and not ordering the immediate declassification of anything.”
Why? Politico called it “Trump’s latest offensive against a Russia investigation that has ensnared associates and has consumed his attention for much of his presidency.”
Said Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols: “I’d really like to know how Trump’s declassification order isn’t straight-up an abuse of power.”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti: “Trump has ordered the release of sensitive information into an ongoing investigation of himself and his friends —information that his own Justice Department did not want released because it would jeopardize ongoing investigations,” he told Politico. “That is corrupt, plain and simple.” Read on, here.