Trump’s military would outspend Reagan’s, CBO says; What’s next for Yemen; US subhunters to return to Iceland; Save the Pentagon’s innovation insurgency; and just a bit more...
The projected price of Trump’s military. “By 2027, the base budget (in 2018 dollars) would reach $688 billion, more than 20 percent larger than peak spending during the 1980s,” says a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday.
Among CBO’s assumptions: military endstrength would rise about 10 percent, or 237,000 troops; the Navy would enlarge its warfleet by about 30 percent to 355 ships; and “purchases of new weapons would increase, as would spending for research on future weapons. Costs also would rise because growth in expenses for military personnel and for operation and maintenance (O&M) would continue to outpace inflation.”
That is $295 billion more than allowed by the Budget Control Act through 2021, and it doesn’t include emergency war spending.
Congress is still unable to come to an agreement that might lift the caps — and is even in danger of plunging the government into shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires on Friday, notes Military Times.
Travel Ban 3.0 is live. CNN: “Issued in September, the third edition of the travel ban placed varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen.”
Implications: “The order is a significant temporary win for the Trump administration, which has fought all year to impose a travel ban against citizens of several Muslim-majority countries. Monday's order means it can be enforced while challenges to the policy make their way through the legal system.” Read on, here.
In the name of the terps. Meet Asif Khan Ahmadzai, a 28-year-old Afghan interpreter for U.S. troops in that country. He was “one of at least three Afghan interpreters stranded abroad in the last month, apparently as a result of those ‘enhanced vetting’ measures” by the Trump administration, The Daily Beast reports. “Those measures were put in place as a way to prevent foreign terrorists from traveling to the United States, where groups like the Islamic State are increasingly attempting to conduct mass casualty attacks. But measures designed to assist the fight against terrorism appear to be taking a heavy toll on individuals who volunteered, at considerable risk to themselves and their families, to assist U.S. efforts to combat terrorist groups abroad.” Story, here.
From Defense One
USAF General on Countering North Korea: 'The Enemy Has Closed the Gap' // Patrick Tucker: Various weapons meant to deter North Korea from developing nukes will arrive only in time to deter Kim from using them.
Defense Hawks' Optimism Wanes for a Pentagon Spending Boost // Marcus Weisgerber: At the Reagan defense forum, speakers repeatedly urged budget-cap repeal. But will Trump listen?
How to Save the Pentagon's Innovation Insurgency // Pete Newell: The former chief of the US Army's Rapid Equipping Force suggests parallel tracks for innovation and execution.
The Cost of Trump's Attacks on National-Security Agencies // Jack Goldsmith: The president's efforts to delegitimize the FBI are frustrating and demoralizing the staff of the nation's lead agency for domestic counterintelligence.
The US Army Knows It's Vulnerable to Space Attack. Here's What They Want to Do About It // Caroline Houck: Map-reading skills are just the start. Next up: looking at capabilities that provide alternatives to GPS and satellite comms.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1943: The P-51 Mustang flies its first combat mission.
What to make of Yemen, where almost all indicators are bad for some seven million Yemenis at risk of starving: Following the death Monday of former strongman and President (with a 33-year run) Ali Abdullah Saleh, “political fracturing could make it harder for the parties to negotiate an end to the conflict… while renewed fighting in the capital, Sana, could worsen the humanitarian crisis afflicting Yemen, which the United Nations has called the world’s worst,” the New York Times reports this morning from Jordan.
Saleh’s funeral is slated for later today, Reuters adds. And Saleh’s son responded to his father’s death this morning by calling for “revenge” on Houthis. Beyond the funeral, little is known about what lies ahead for a country whose various factions have been at war with one another for decades.
In that vein, Reuters writes in an attempt at a preview: “Much is likely to depend on the future allegiances of [Saleh’s] loyalists, who had helped the Houthis, an armed group from the Zaidi branch of Shi‘ite Islam that ruled a thousand-year kingdom in northern Yemen until 1962, seize and hold much of the country until he dramatically switched sides on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, fighting and airstrikes continued overnight in the capital. “The International Committee of the Red Cross said that at least 125 people had been killed and many more had been wounded in fighting in Sana since Wednesday, and the United Nations appealed to the rival factions to observe a pause on Tuesday to allow civilians to move to safety and relief agencies to deliver aid. Two Sana hospitals had completely run out of the fuel needed to keep electricity generators and lifesaving equipment operating.” Read on at the Times, here.
ICYMI: Syria has quit the Geneva process to end the almost seven-year conflict there — unless the opposition (and U.S.) agrees to incorporate embattled President Bashar al-Assad into their future plans, Reuters reported Friday.
Today, U.S. officials tell the Washington Post Assad’s military can’t win in Syria — bucking Russian claims to the contrary. The metrics, according to an unnamed White House official: “They’re not wealthy, they’re not rich in manpower, they’re not rich in other capabilities, and the grievances, if anything, are sharper now than they were at the beginning of this conflict.”
Adds the Post, “The Trump administration believes that about 80 percent of the military manpower fighting in support of the Syrian government is made up of foreign forces from Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
So, what now? Unclear — especially considering the Friday developments in Geneva, a process to which SecDef Mattis has said repeatedly that the U.S. military remains committed. Still, the Post writes, “The Trump administration is hoping to secure a political solution in part to ease the pressure of millions of Syrian refugees on Western nations. The administration remains unlikely, though, to commit the kind of military resources that would be required to dramatically alter the trajectory on the ground, where opposition groups remain fragmented and unable to secure a sweeping victory of their own.” Read on, here.
While the Saudis figure out what to do next with their war next door, officials in Riyadh have just pledged $100 million to an African counter-terrorism group called the G5 Sahel, Voice of America reports, via Reuters. “The contribution would be a major boost to the cash-strapped force and bring pledged commitments to more than half the roughly $500 million the G5 Sahel says it needs for its first year of operations.”
China’s military is “sending a message” to the U.S. and South Korea with new exercises in the Yellow and East Seas near the Korean peninsula, the South China Morning Post reports.
Japan wants precision weapons that can hit North Korea, Reuters reports. The weapons: "Lockheed Martin Corp’s extended-range Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, which can hit targets 1,000 km (620 miles) away." The airframe: F-15 fighters. “Japan is also interested in buying the 500 km-range Joint Strike Missile designed by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to be carried by the F-35 stealth fighter,” Reuters writes.
Word of caution: “Neither of those two items are included in a 5.26 trillion yen ($46.76 billion) budget request already submitted by Japan’s Ministry of Defence, however additional funds would be made available to evaluate the purchase of these missiles.” More here.
U.S. subhunting planes heading back to Iceland. There’s money in the 2018 defense bill to rehabilitate and restore to service the Navy’s old base at Keflavik, Foreign Policy reports. During the Cold War, prop-driven P-3s fly from the base to track Soviet subs heading from Murmansk to the Atlantic. Since 2014, NATO allies, including Norway, have been begging the United States to restore the capability to hunt the Russian subs that are now plying the same routes. Read, here.
Finally: Paratroopers (or Air-Assaulters) of the 101st Airborne gets Army’s newest pistols first, Military Times reported recently. “The M17 and its compact version, the M18, arrived at the 101st Airborne’s Fort Campbell, Kentucky, headquarters this week, and a handful of soldiers got to fire the weapon fresh out of the box. The M17 is the Army’s new handgun and eventual replacement for the M9 Beretta, which was first fielded in 1986.”
The promise of the M17: “better accuracy, tighter dispersion, and better ergonomics, which, combined, result in a far more lethal pistol,” said Lt. Col. Steven Power, individual weapons product manager for Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in an official Army release.
Expected timeline: “All Army units will see the M17 replace the M9 over the next decade. But until they are replaced and trained, the M9 will be maintained for those soldiers who carry a sidearm but have not yet received or been trained on the new handgun.”
A word on training (from experience): Do not be afraid of the pistol’s kick (looking at you, officers). If you are afraid, you are likely to not advance your rounds further than 10 feet “down range,” turning what should be a routine trip to the range into a torturous, day-long affair for your NCOs, range detail, and possibly worse. Good luck!