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interestingly After 2 months, Mattis is only Trump pick at the Pentagon
Jim Mattis is not lonely in the Pentagon, but two months into his tenure as secretary of defense not a single political appointee has joined him.

The retired Marine general, who took office just hours after President Donald Trump was sworn in, has sparred with the White House over choices for high-priority civilian positions that, while rarely visible to the public, are key to developing and implementing defense policy at home and abroad.

When the Obama administration closed shop in January, only one of its top-tier Pentagon political appointees stayed in place — Robert Work, the deputy defense secretary. He agreed to remain until his successor is sworn in. So far no nominee for deputy has been announced, let alone confirmed by the Senate.

The administration has announced four nominees for senior Pentagon civilian jobs, and two of those later withdrew. Trump's nominee to lead the Army, Vincent Viola, withdrew in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

On Tuesday, the White House announced it intends to nominate John J. Sullivan to be the Pentagon's chief lawyer. In January, Trump announced former congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico as his nominee to be Air Force secretary, but he has not submitted the nomination to the Senate.

"The process has definitely slowed," said Dov Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon budget chief during the George W. Bush administration. He said he would be surprised if Mattis gets any senior appointees confirmed before mid-April.

"The delays are already causing much consternation among allies, especially in Europe and Southeast Asia, as their most senior working level day-to-day contacts — the deputy assistant secretaries — may not come onboard until the summer," Zakheim said in an email exchange. "Lots of mayhem could take place before then."

This is not an issue at the Pentagon alone. While most of Trump's choices for Cabinet and Cabinet-level posts have won Senate confirmation, 500-plus government-wide sub-Cabinet level positions requiring Senate confirmation remain unfilled.

There are few visible signs that the absence of Trump appointments in the Pentagon has affected its management of the counter-Islamic State campaign or military operations in Afghanistan. But the president has ordered a number of major policy reviews that require senior-level Pentagon attention, including counter-IS strategy, nuclear and missile defense plans and a blueprint for building up and improving the combat-readiness of the military.

Even Republicans are taking note. Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing Wednesday that when lawmakers have nuclear policy questions, "we do not have people in place in the new administration to answer some of those questions."

Pentagon insiders say the appointment process, while contentious at times, has not produced significantly more friction than previous transitions in which the White House changed political parties. Democrat Barack Obama had fewer issues at the Pentagon when he took office in January 2009 because he kept in place Bush's defense chief, Robert Gates, and Obama's transition team quickly settled on nominees for key senior defense policy jobs.

When Bush made Donald H. Rumsfeld his defense chief in January 2001, Rumsfeld did not get his policy chief, Douglas Feith, in place until July. Rumsfeld, however, had an advantage that Mattis does not: some of his predecessor's senior staff agreed to remain for months. By Rumsfeld's count, it took the Bush White House 70 days on average to approve a recommended nominee, plus 52 more days for Senate confirmation.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said Mattis is committed to getting the right people in key jobs.

"He and his staff are actively conducting interviews and working collaboratively with the White House to nominate people to the Senate for confirmation," Davis said. "We are in the final stages of vetting on several of these, and expect they will be announced soon."

Walter Slocombe, who served as policy chief at the Pentagon during Bill Clinton's presidency, said the appointments process is unavoidably sluggish because of extensive political and security vetting. "Having said that, it's a very bad idea that it takes so long," he said. Career civil servants can fill the void for a time, but their power is limited.

"They'll do enough to keep the engine turning over and be a big help in a crisis, but they're not able to take the lead on policy formation," he added.

Mattis has said little publicly about the pace of getting a new team installed, but officials familiar with the process say he and the White House have been at loggerheads on some picks. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mattis may be about to prevail in one important appointment — Anne W. Patterson, a career diplomat and former ambassador to Egypt and Pakistan who recently retired after serving as the State Department's assistant secretary for near eastern affairs.

Officials expect her to be announced soon as Trump's nominee to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, a position of broad responsibility for steering policy. Critics, including some Republicans, opposed her selection on grounds that as ambassador in Cairo she was too accommodating to former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Among other key Pentagon offices still without a presidentially appointed leader: intelligence, budget chief, weapons buyer, technology chief and personnel policy. These and other top positions were vacated by Obama appointees at the end of his term or earlier last year; they are now run by holdover officials in what the Pentagon calls a "performing the duties" status, meaning they can do the work unless it involves a duty that by law can be performed only by a Senate-confirmed appointee.
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Lieutenant General
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All in details ! with a graphic :p

Operation Atlantic Resolve: Back to Europe

Due to the stable situation in Europe, the new strategic direction of the
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towards the East Asian-Pacific region (
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) and the increasing austerity measures in the US military, the
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was disbanded in 2012 and two
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(ABCT) with more than 10,000 troops were withdrawn from Europe. As a result, a significant capability gap formed in the armoured forces in Europe. After the withdrawal until the beginning of this year, there were just a maximum of 64,000 US soldiers on the European continent – a historic record low. (Dakota L. Wood, “
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“, The Heritage Foundation, 2016: 80f, 164; Andrew Feickert, “
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“, Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2014: 5).

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in spring 2014 and the
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resulted in the fact that the Obama administration was compelled to rethink the situation and ultimately led to the
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(ERI), which includes
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. The aim of ERI is to expand the US presence in Europe again, whereby Operation Atlantic Resolve will particularly increase US troop presence in the eastern European countries through a rotation of an ABCT. Originally limited to the year 2015, the ERI evolves into a new long-term US commitment in Europe. The provided financial resources increased from one billion US dollars in 2015 to an impressive 3.4 billion US dollars for 2017. Almost 2/3 of this budget flows into the maintenance and expansion of stationed equipment (tanks, artillery, ammunition, etc.) in western Europe, which can, if necessary, be transferred to eastern European countries. Furthermore, 28 joint-multinational exercises are planned under the auspices of the ERI for 2017 which, taken together, will encompass 18,000 US troops and 45,000 NATO and
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, for a total of 40 countries. (U.S. European Command Public Affairs Office, “
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“, January 5, 2017; Mark F. Cancian and Lisa Sawyer Samp, “
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“, Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 9, 2016).

Because of the
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, the United States has renounced a permanent stationing of its forces in eastern Europe and therefore uses rotation, which takes place in a cycle of nine months. This began with the 3rd ABCT of the
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, Colorado, which arrived in
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, Germany in January this year. The group includes among other things, approximately 3,500 soldiers, 87 tanks, 18
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, 419
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and 144
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. This is the largest transfer of armoured vehicles from the US to Europe since the end of the
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. Parts of the 4th Infantry Division command is stationed in
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, Germany and the units of the 3rd ABCT was deployed from the beginning of February to Poland at sites in various Eastern European countries (US Army Europe Public Affairs Office, “
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“, 4 January 2017). Also in February, the
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, New York, including an aviation battalion from
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in New Mexico and Texas featuring a total of around 10
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, 50
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, 24
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and 2200 soldiers was moved to
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, Germany. Some of these helicopters are being integrated in task forces in Lithuania, Romania and Poland.
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Tyrant King
Air Force Advances Future Plans for the A-10

Yesterday at 10:45 PM

The Air Force A-10 replacement strategy could involve building a new plane, adjusting an existing aircraft or merely upgrading the A-10 itself.

The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.

Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document. We are staffing it around the Air Force now. When it's ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told reporters last year.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what's available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be. We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March of last year.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.
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now I read US Navy submarine program loses some of its shine
The luster is off a bit for the Virginia-class submarine building program, long considered a model US Navy construction effort that routinely brings down the building time and cost for each successive sub. One submarine has just missed its contract delivery date – pushed back even more when sea trials were halted to return to port – and shipbuilders are working harder to keep construction on schedule.

The problems come at a time when there is widespread support to continue building two Virginia-class submarines per year even when the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines begin construction – when the Navy plans to go to three submarines each year.

Problems seem to stem from two primary factors: the move in 2011 to double the submarine construction rate from one to two per year has strained shipyards and the industrial base that supplies parts for the subs; and the Navy has successively reduced contractual building times as shipbuilders grew more experienced with building the submarines, cutting back on earlier, highly-trumpeted opportunities to beat deadlines.

The situation seemingly came to a head March 2 shortly after the submarine Washington began its initial sea trials off the Virginia coast. The submarine, fitting out at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, has been falling behind schedule for some time, missing a targeted summer 2016 delivery date and a scheduled Jan. 7 commissioning ceremony. More delays ensued in January when, according to the Navy, a problem was found with the hatch seating surface in the large lockout trunk access hatch, requiring a notice to Congress that the ship would miss its Feb. 28 contract delivery date and a rescheduled March 25 commissioning date.

It’s not the first time a Virginia-class submarine has missed a contract delivery date. The first two subs were late, and in late 2007 the North Carolina, the third Virginia, was delivered by Newport News seven weeks late because of welding issues. But since then, every submarine delivered by Newport News and Virginia class prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat has been delivered by the contract date or more often, earlier, causing something of a competition between the two yards.

Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines at Naval Sea Systems Command, was aboard the Washington for the sea trials but would not specify the exact problem that caused officials to take the highly unusual move of cutting short the sea trials.

Initial sea trials, he said March 9, are “a focused, two-and-a-half-day period where you certify the full capability of the ship from a propulsion, from a safety and recovery standpoint.” If an issue comes up that impacts the ability to continue trials, he said, “you’re coming back in. And that’s what we did.

“We’re working through this particular issue, and the delivery and commissioning date for the Washington is under review as a result,” he added. “But my estimation is that we’ll come through it relatively quickly.”

But even with the sub’s late delivery, Jabaley remains hopeful that by the end of the completion cycle – including post-delivery tests and a nearly six-month-long post shakedown availability overhaul – the planned date by which the completed, ready-for-operations submarine is turned over to commanders will still be met.

“Washington will deliver very close to schedule,” Jabaley said, “and at delivery to the type commander she will be as early or earlier than almost any other submarine we’ve delivered in terms of getting her to the type commander as an operational asset.”

So far, the Navy said, costs are not rising.

“The last nine Virginia submarines, (New Hampshire SSN 778 through Illinois SSN 786) have all been delivered under target cost and within Navy budget,” Jabaley said. “Current projections are that all remaining Block III submarines (Washington SSN 787 through Delaware SSN 791) will also deliver under target cost and within Navy budget.”

The two-per-year challenge

But larger issues affect the program. The 2011 ramp-up from one to two submarines ordered each year strained the shipbuilders and the submarine industrial base. Electric Boat and Newport News, who share equally in building each sub, had to hire more workers, injecting a level of inexperience into their work forces with a consequent rise in the amount of work needing to be redone. Some parts suppliers have struggled to keep up with increased demand, and late deliveries and quality problems have become more frequent.

“Both shipbuilders hired additional people to account for the increase to two submarines per year,” Jabaley said. “As a result, obviously when you bring in an influx of new people your level of experience goes down.

“There is always a certain amount of rework in any manufacturing endeavor, and submarine construction is no different,” he said. “It is something we monitor closely. We knew there would be what we call the green labor effect as we went up to two per year. But we have in general satisfactorily come through that.”

The building schedule has also been significantly reduced since the first four Block I Virginias were contracted for an 84-month building period, reduced to 74 months for the six Block IIs. The eight Block III subs - - those currently under construction – are set for a 66-month building times, and Block IVs will be reduced further to 62 and then 60 months.

The first three Block IIIs were delivered by the contract date, Jabaley noted, but the streak was broken with Washington. Sources noted concerns that Colorado, the next submarine to be delivered from Electric Boat, is challenged to meet her Aug. 31 delivery date, but Jabaley expressed confidence the program would work through its problems, declaring that, “at this point, Colorado is on schedule and we’re working very hard for her and subsequent ships – Indiana’s the one after her – to meet their contract delivery dates.”

The late delivery of the Washington is “not indicative of a systemic problem,” Jabaley said. “What this is is a recognition that we have challenged the shipbuilders.

“The Virginia class continues to be a high-performing program with each successive submarine delivering with improved quality, less deferred work, and reduced acquisition cost.”

The shipbuilders acknowledge they are dealing with issues on the program.

“When technical issues are encountered during the construction process, the shipbuilders take this very seriously,” said Electric Boat president Jeff Geiger. “We aggressively work to correct issues and put processes in place to prevent recurrence. Ongoing process improvements are key to continuing to reduce construction span times and costs.

“We are committed to continuing to produce the highest quality submarines for the Navy, on time and on budget,” Geiger added.

But one noted Congressional analyst sounded a note of caution.

“The Virginia class program in recent years has been described as a model acquisition program in terms of cost reduction and meeting delivery schedules, so this information goes against that grain,” said Ron O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service.

“It’s also is a reminder that ramping up production rates for submarines or other types of ships isn’t a cakewalk — it can lead to challenges at shipyards and supplier firms. Those challenges can be met and overcome, and industry officials will tell you that they welcome those challenges, but doing so requires attention.”
source is DefenseNews
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Tyrant King
Ditching pre-positioned 'activity sets,' Army now deploying equipment from CONUS
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March 13, 2017
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Gone are the equipment caches known as “activity sets” stored in Europe and Korea for deploying units to fall in on for exercises and other operations.

The focus now is how well the Army can deploy units along with all of its equipment from the continental US to other theaters, rendering activity sets moot, Gen. Gus Perna, Army Materiel Command commander told Defense News in an interview at the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium on Monday.

The Army's most recent example is the new armored brigade combat team that is deploying on a heel-to-toe rotation in Europe, along with all of its equipment. When the unit rotates back into the states, it will bring everything back.

The activity sets were only intended to serve as a bridging strategy in Europe and Korea as operations ramped up in recent years in both regions. They allowed soldiers to deploy from CONUS to a combatant command area of operations and draw the equipment out of storage there and train on it.

But that resulted in somewhat of a “rent-a-car” approach and didn’t allow for units to train on how to deploy equipment vital to a CONUS-based Army, according to Perna.

“What we found was soldiers are learning skills to deploy, load equipment on trains, bring down to ships, learn how to offload, it’s a great skill for soldiers to have,” Perna said.

“Until the president changes his thought process about where they want their Army, we have to make everything an away game, which means we have to be good at deploying,” he added.

And while deploying units with all of their equipment is more expensive, “the skills they are getting now far outweigh the cost,” Perna said.

The Army’s prepositioned stocks – known as APS – which are set up in each combatant command to be used in a contingency operation for rapid response will remain.

The Army’s APS capability is in place in the right places, Perna said, and the equipment is ready maintenance-wise. Now the Army is moving forward to provide “additive capability” ready to go straight into the fight. “That is the next step,” he added.

Perna is also looking at making sure equipment is resident in the right places with the right units across all three components of the Army – the active force, the National Guard and the Reserves. “We do have quite a bit of equipment on hand,” he said. “In fact we have 980,000 pieces of equipment … that are the right equipment but in the wrong place. We have to execute 980,000 lateral transfers across the Army’s three compos to ensure forces are ready.”

He added the Army is also working to divest roughly 1.3 million pieces of excess equipment in the next five years.

As Perna manages the distribution of equipment worldwide, he said he was worried about the Army’s ability to execute a “decisive action fight” against a near-peer competitor. “It’s not because we don’t have great leaders and soldiers that have been trained in the last 15 years, who have demonstrated courage and initiative and have led from the front,” he said during a speech Monday at AUSA Global. “It’s because the skills we need in particular for sustainment have atrophied.”

Because of the rapid fielding of an enormous amount of equipment during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s ability to sustain equipment without the help of contractors have weakened, service leaders have long noted.

The Army is fully engaged in improving sustainment processes through effective training plans, Perna said.

The service should strike a balance, however, in terms of using soldier maintainers versus contractor maintainers in theater. “I believe it should be scalable,” Perna said.

“In a decisive action,” like early operations in Iraq, he said, “there was no place for contractors or civilians to be on the battlefield. It was the soldiers’ responsibility. But as the theater matured, as we controlled more area and we controlled more lines of communication, then we could facilitate the introduction of civilians and contractors on the battlefield.”

Going forward the tempo of the operations should dictate whether it’s appropriate for soldiers or contractors to do the maintenance and anyone doing the maintenance should be prepared at the highest levels, according to Perna.
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Tyrant King
Army eyes outfitting soldiers with anti-drone guns on the battlefield
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March 13, 2017
The Army's adversaries are becoming more sophisticated and tech-savvy, and unmanned is a big part of that. To counter that threat, soldiers on the ground are going to wield new toys like lasers and electromagnetic guns.

The Army Capabilities Integration Center has been testing anti-drone weapons in recent exercises, studying which systems are best at defeating all kinds of unmanned aerial systems. The center is also determining where to integrate them into units and how, Army Training and Doctrine Command officials told Army Times on Monday at the Association of United States Army's Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Ala.

"We don’t want a fair fight," said Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess, ARCIC's deputy director. "We want to have all of the advantages to ourselves."

The 2016 Russia New Generation Warfare study included insights into the country's use of drones, particularly in Ukraine.

To address drones, the Army is working on its Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability, which will identify whether drones are civilian- or military-operated and whether they're operating in a threatening way, and then pinpoint its ground control. Then there is a range of options, from using a cyber attack to break the communication link to blasting the thing out of the sky.

Soldiers are getting the chance to try out these weapons, including the Battelle DroneDefender, in high-level exercises where they can then provide feedback to TRADOC.

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Leadership sent a counter-UAS laser out on an exercise with a Stryker scout platoon last fall, the head of Brigade Modernization Command told Army Times.

"The results that we got back from soldiers are that the scout platoon had a hard time balancing their reconnaissance tasks and the counter-UAS tasks, so they recommended actually that it be fielded in the [fire support team] platoon, where it had been in the previous exercise," said Maj. Gen. Terrence McKenrick.

Overwhelmed, the scout platoon, had to pull a soldier from another organization to be able to work the laser. Using the scouts was a suggestion borne of a previous exercise.

"They thought the scout platoon, because they’re going to be your forward deployed forces in an area of responsibility," McKenrick said. "So it made more sense to have that capability out where they could have the furthest reach to be able to detect."

But now the Fires Center of Excellence will look at the potential of anti-drone electronic weapons with the fire support team instead, he added.
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