February 3, 2023

White House Considering Defense Bill Veto

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The White House is considering a veto of the House version of a $601 billion defense bill. The high price tag is driven by election year  efforts to spare weapons systems and popular programs, reports the AP. The Obama administration said Monday that if the bill hampers the Pentagon from allocating dwindling resources to the military, senior advisers would recommend that the president veto the measure. The House is expected to debate and vote on the bill sometime this week. The Senate Armed Services Committee is beginning its work on its version. The two measures will have to be reconciled.

The US has fallen behind a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Israel in the ongoing international cyber war, reports Breaking Defense. Tina Harrington, head of the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) Signals Intelligence Directorate, believes the US government also lags far behind the private sector, partially because of NRO’sfailure to employ the best networks or cyber experts. But she identified the Pentagon’s glacial acquisition system as the main culprit. The budget and requirements segments of the procurement process takes a cumulative average of four years which results in contracts being issued three years or so behind the latest technologies. Ms. Harrington summarized, “Two years to get it is two years too late in the cyber industry.”

War on the Rocks provides an analysis of the Navy’s contested acquisition effort for the UCLASS aircraft, delayed with a restricted draft RFP only recently released. The delay is due to a dispute over UCLASS requirements and whether the platform should be a high-end, penetrating aircraft, or a more limited ISR platform suited for low threat environments. The commentator believes that the Navy should rewrite the RFP to reflect a unified acquisition program for two distinct airframes sharing common core technologies: one a high-end, penetrating Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) with robust strike capability and the other a workhorse Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Refueling (UCLAS-R) aircraft with potent ISR and limited strike capabilities.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and increasing concerns about further aggression may result in several European countries increasing their defense spending, according to Defense News. Europe’s declining defense budgets, which fell from 2.5 percent of GDP a decade ago to 1.6 percent today,  diminished interest by international defense contractors. Lithuania, Romania, and Sweden announced plans to increase defense spending, others expected to follow, but Germany and France do not appear to be among them.

Defense analyst Michael Blades believes a main priority for the next-generation unmanned system is the ability to defend itself, according to Defense News. Mr. Blades spoke at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference recently and said, “I don’t know if it’s all stealth or all countermeasures, but whatever we make for future platforms is going to have to have some sort of capability to fly in contested airspace . . . because the people that are bad to us are going to have more access to surface-to-air, air-to-air platforms. There are countries out there right now developing air-to-air UAS to shoot down what we have.”

The F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter impressed thousands at the Cherry Point Air Show last weekend, according to the Havelock News. The stealthy jet went through a series of slow takeoffs, hovers and high speed-passes to show the aircraft’s versatility.

Servicemembers Insurance Relief Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would allow members of the military and their families to keep their current auto insurance policy if they are ordered to relocate to a new state, reports The Hill. The bill would also make the current state-based insurance regulatory system “more accommodating” to service members that have to change car insurance policies.

A senior Air Force officer expressed his negative views on the F-35 international fighter in the service’s own Air and Space Power Journal. Col. Michael W. Pietrucha references “program delays, unmet performance requirements, and spiraling costs” and urges the Air Force to reexamine its participation in the F-35 program and the overall future of the fighter force.

 

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