Defense

Trump signs new defense policy bill that rebuilds military, boosts troop pay

Capping a major victory, President Trump signed a $716 billion defense bill Monday that authorizes hundreds of new planes, ships and tanks, increases troop strength and raises military pay, modernizes the U.S. nuclear arsenal and tightens control of government contracts with Chinese technology companies. Speaking to troops at Fort Drum, N.Y., Mr. Trump said the new National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019 is “the most significant investment in our military, and in our warfighters, in a generation.” “After years of devastating cuts, we’re now rebuilding our military like never before,” Mr. Trump said. “Every day our military was fighting for us, and now we’re fighting for you.” The signing ceremony also fulfilled Mr. Trump’s promise to provide more certainty for military funding, after years of budget “sequestration” caps under President Obama. It’s the earliest in the year that Congress has completed an NDAA in more than 20 years. The White House said the NDAA helps to develop “a more lethal and resilient force,” and will increase the size of U.S. forces by authorizing 15,600 more troops across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The new recruits will bring the total strength of the Army to 487,500 soldiers; Navy, 335,400 sailors; 186,100 in the Marine Corps; and 329,100 in the Air Force. Mr. Trump also got what he wanted in the measure with controls on U.S. government contracts with China’s ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies because of national-security concerns; the restrictions are nevertheless weaker than earlier versions of the bill.

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Pentagon sees quantum computing as key weapon for war in space

Top Pentagon official Michael Griffin sat down a few weeks ago with Air Force scientists at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to discuss the future of quantum computing in the U.S. military. Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, has listed quantum computers and related applications among the Pentagon’s must-do R&D investments. Quantum computing is one area where the Pentagon worries that it is playing catchup while China continues to leap ahead. The technology is being developed for many civilian applications, and the military sees it as potentially game-changing for information and space warfare. The U.S. Air Force particularly is focused on what is known as quantum information science. “We see this as a very disruptive technology,” said Michael Hayduk, chief of the computing and communications division at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Artificial-intelligence algorithms, highly secure encryption for communications satellites and accurate navigation that does not require GPS signals are some of the most coveted capabilities that would be aided by quantum computing. Hayduk spoke last week during a meeting of the Defense Innovation Board, a panel of tech executives and scientists who advise the secretary of defense. The DIB met at the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley location, the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. Quantum computers are the newest generation of supercomputers — powerful machines with a new approach to processing information. Quantum information science is the application of the laws of quantum mechanics to information science, Hayduk explained. Unlike traditional computers that are made of bits of zero or one, in quantum computers bits can have both values simultaneously, giving them unprecedented processing power. “The Air Force is taking this very seriously, and we’ve invested for quite a while,” Hayduk said. The Pentagon is especially intrigued by the potential of quantum computing to develop secure communications and inertial navigation in GPS-denied and -contested environments. “It’s a key area we’re very much interested in,” said Hayduk. Some of these technologies will take years to materialize, he said. “In timing and sensing, we see prototype capabilities in a five-year timeframe.” Communications systems and networks will take even longer. Quantum clocks are viewed as a viable alternative to GPS in scenarios that require perfect synchronization across multiple weapons systems and aircraft, for example, said Hayduk. “We’re looking at GPS-like precision in denied environments,” he said. “It often takes several updates to GPS throughout the day to synchronize platforms. We want to be able to move past that so if we are in a denied environment we can still stay synchronized.” Meanwhile, the Pentagon continues to watch what other nations are doing. China is “very serious” about this, he said. It is projected to invest from $10 billion to $15 billion over the next five years in quantum computing. China already has developed quantum satellites that cannot be hacked. “They have demonstrated great technology,” said Hayduk. In the U.S., “we have key pieces in place. But we’re looking at more than imitating what China is doing in ground-satellite communications. We’re looking at the whole ecosystem: ground, air, space, and form a true network around that.”

Fascinating!  For more, click on the text above..

U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic State surge 300 percent

American warplanes are working overtime against Islamic State targets in Syria, with the number of combat sorties in May against the terror group surging over 300 percent compared to recent months, says new airstrike figures released by command officials Friday. U.S. and coalition combat aircraft flew 225 airstrikes last month, hitting 280 known Islamic State or ISIS redoubts in Syria, located mostly in the volatile Euphrates River Valley, said American commanders with the U.S.-led counterterrorism mission Operation Inherent Resolve. During a single six-day period in May, American and allied fighter jets executed 41 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, resulting in 49 enemy targets hit, coalition officials said in a statement. “This demonstrates a 304 percent increase over the 74 strikes conducted in March and a 123 percent increase over the 183 strikes recorded in April,” according to Friday’s statement. The majority of the airstrikes were carried out in support of Operation Roundup, the ground campaign led by the Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF — the American-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab paramilitaries — to eliminate remaining pockets of ISIS resistance in the Euphrates River Valley. “Operation Roundup will continue to build momentum against Daesh remnants remaining in the Iraq-Syria border region and the [Euphrates River Valley],” command officials said in the statement, using the derogatory Arabic term for ISIS. “The Coalition remains committed to the lasting defeat of Daesh here, increasing peace and stability in the region and protecting all our homelands from the Daesh threat,” coalition officials added. Kicking off in early May, the operation is the first major anti-ISIS operation by the SDF and the American-led coalition since the fall of Raqqa — the terror group’s de facto Syrian capital and the heart of its so-called caliphate — in 2017. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters aboard the U.S.S Harry S. Truman carrier strike group began bombarding Islamic State positions in May, linking up with the Navy’s Sixth Fleet — which is responsible for U.S. maritime operations in Europe and North Africa — late last April, as part of the Pentagon’s seemingly final push to eradicate ISIS from its Syrian enclaves. On Thursday, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said American advisers on the ground in Syria and their higher ups at the Pentagon were seeing good progress from the SDF. “We’re making progress, and, in concert with our SDF partners, I think that we’re beginning to clear out the final pockets of ISIS,” he told reporters during a Defense Department briefing. “We want to leave behind security elements that are going to be able to maintain [security] at the local level,” the three-star general said. “That’s sort of a long-term aim we have, as we push down the Euphrates River Valley, and that progress is continuing.”

North Korea Walks Out of Talks with South over Joint Drills with U.S.

North Korean state media reported on Wednesday local time that the nation’s senior diplomats would cancel scheduled high-level talks with South Korean counterparts, reportedly due to military drills Seoul had planned to execute with the United States. Pyongyang deployed high-level officials to both Seoul and Beijing this week. Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, was scheduled to meet with South Korean officials on Tuesday. Another group of unnamed senior officials reportedly landed in Beijing on Monday to continue discussions in anticipation of a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. On Wednesday local time (Tuesday afternoon in most of the United States), the South Korean outlet Yonhap reported that the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the government news outlet of the Kim regime, had published a report announcing that the inter-Korean talks would no longer occur. The report specifically cited the “Max Thunder” military drills being held jointly between South Korea and the United States as the reason for their backing out of the meeting. “This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea and targeting us, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” Yonhap quoted KCNA as saying. “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.” Yonhap added that KCNA’s brief went on to call “into question whether next month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump can go ahead as planned.” The meeting between Kim and Trump is expected to address “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” which Kim expressed a desire to see during his meeting with Moon on the border of their two countries. American officials have stated that they will not pursue regime change in North Korea and are open to giving financial incentives to the Kim regime to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program, which it uses to threaten nuclear strikes on South Korea, the United States, and Japan on a regular basis. A report using satellite images on the website 38 North Monday found that North Korea has made significant moves towards shutting down its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, the only such site in the country. Several buildings have been dismantled, and a new platform, perhaps to accommodate journalists, has been assembled at the site. KCNA announced Saturday it will invite international journalists to watch the shutdown of the site; skeptics believe the site is inoperable and a symbolic “shutdown” would cost Pyongyang little. Adding to confusion on Tuesday was the publication of a report by South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo revealing that North Korea has maintained a secret uranium enrichment facility independent of the supplies found at Punggye-ri. Joongang Ilbo reports that American intelligence sources are aware of the site and will demand that its contents be part of any deal to denuclearize the country, not simply the supplies currently known to exist. “Max Thunder” is the name given to two-week-long air drills by both militaries, which is typically a drill practiced as part of the larger Foal Eagle joint exercise but was removed from the schedule reportedly as a response to Kim Jong-un’s being open to meeting with both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Both militaries openly stated they will hold this exercise in May, as they do every year. Yonhap reported on March 21 that the “Max Thunder drill will be held for two weeks from May 11, involving more than 100 Air Force jets of the allies,” leaving significant time between then and the Panmunjom summit with Moon Jae-in for Kim Jong-un to raise objections over these exercises. Yet this is the first major step North Korea has made to object to the exercises. Update: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters during her regular press briefing on Tuesday that the KCNA report did not correspond to any private messages American officials have received: “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”

We believe this is just posturing on the part of North Korea..  But, we’ll continue to monitor this developing story…

UFO mysteries unraveled: How the ‘real-life X-Files’ emerged from a top secret UK project

A former official at the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence has shed new light on the circumstances surrounding a secret government UFO study that was conducted during the 1990s. In 1996, the MoD commissioned a defense contractor to produce a comprehensive report on U.K. UFO sightings. The report was compiled at a time of huge public interest in UFOs fueled by the wildly popular “X-Files” TV series and 1997’s 50th anniversary of the purported UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico. Careful to avoid using the term UFO, the report described sightings as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Code-named Project Condign, the report analyzed a database of sightings between 1987 and 1997 and was delivered to officials in 2000. The study, entitled ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in the UK Air Defence Region,’ found that that sightings could be explained by a variety of known phenomena, both man-made and natural. The incidence of relatively rare natural phenomena was also noted. “No evidence exists to associate the phenomena with any particular nation,” it said. Project Condign has been compared to Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force effort to investigate UFOs that closed in 1969. Nick Pope, a former MoD UFO investigator who is now an author and journalist, told Fox News that he was involved in setting up the study with his counterpart in the Ministry’s Defence Intelligence Staff. “The reason for the study was that while we’d been investigating UFO sightings on a case-by-case basis for decades, we’d done very little trend analysis,” he explained, via an emailed statement. “Project Condign was supposed to rectify this and be a proper intelligence assessment that would look for patterns in data we already had.” “We were trying to draw everything together and say in relation to UFOs: ‘OK, what’s our best assessment of what we’re dealing with, what are the threats, and what are the opportunities?’,” he added. Initial discussions about the study started in 1993, according to Pope, who was no longer involved in the Ministry’s UFO investigations by the time work on the report itself started. Pope, who left the MoD in 2006, has been quoted extensively in the media as a result of his links to what remains a highly controversial topic. His involvement in MoD UFO investigations lasted from 1991 to 1994, according to his website. “The study was highly classified and extremely sensitive, not least because the MoD consistently told parliament, the media and the public that UFOs were of limited interest and ‘no defense significance’,” Pope said. “Our concern was that if the existence of the study became known, it would have exposed an internal position on the phenomenon that was different from our public position.” The report only entered the public domain in 2006 following a Freedom of Information request from academic Dr. David Clarke. The identity of the report’s author has not been revealed. A new set of previously-unseen documents recently obtained by Clarke, a principal research fellow at the U.K’s Sheffield Hallam University, have thrust Project Condign into the spotlight once again. The records show how over-worked MoD officials were keen to reduce their commitment to investigating reports of UFO sightings. With its findings, Project Condign duly laid the foundations for the MoD to start scaling back its UFO-related operations. The Ministry’s DI55 department, which had secretly collected data on potential UFO sightings since 1967, closed at the end of 2000. The MoD’s UFO Desk closed in 2009. Pope found the final Project Condign report disappointing. “In places it looked like a conclusion-led study where data had been used to support a personal opinion,” he said, but acknowledged the challenges involved in compiling such a confidential report. “The problem with an intelligence study like Project Condign is that it’s so secret and sensitive that those involved don’t reach out to subject matter experts outside the intelligence community,” he explained, adding that consultation with the U.K.’s Met Office weather service, other scientists and academics would have been helpful. The report also suggested that atmospheric plasma may account for some UFO sightings, which Pope sees as confusing. “In speculating about exotic atmospheric plasma phenomena the report’s author had made the classic mistake of trying to explain one mystery in terms of another,” he said. The former MoD employee was also surprised by the discussion of “novel military applications” that could be supported by greater understanding of the UFO phenomenon. “This was essentially a reference to weaponization, including the construction of a directed energy weapon,” he said.

‘Adversaries’ jamming Air Force gunships in Syria, Special Ops general says

The head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command said Wednesday that Air Force gunships, needed to provide close air support for American commandos and U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria, were being “jammed” by “adversaries.” Calling the electronic warfare environment in Syria “the most aggressive” on earth, Army Gen. Tony Thomas told an intelligence conference in Tampa that adversaries “are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, etc.” Thomas’ remarks, which were first reported by the website The Drive, come on the heels of reports that Russian forces are jamming U.S. surveillance drones flying over the war-torn nation. An Air Force AC-130 gunship was among the U.S. military aircraft used to kill dozens of Russian mercenaries in Syria in early February. The Pentagon said the mercenaries attacked an outpost manned by American commandos and U.S.-backed fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprising Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. Wednesday was not the first time General Thomas has been so forthcoming about Syria in a public setting. Last summer, speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum hosted by Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Thomas said he had told Kurdish-led fighters battling the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria that they needed to change their “brand” from YPG — a group Turkey considers a terrorist organization — to something else. Thomas called it “a stroke of brilliance” for the Kurdish fighters to add “democracy” to their name. Today, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the U.S. military’s best ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria, helping to take back 90 percent of territory formerly held by ISIS. It consists of well over 50,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. There are currently about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.

Chinese Phones Identified as Security Risk Sold at U.S. Military Bases

Stars & Stripes reports that smartphones made by the Chinese company Huawei are being sold to U.S. military personnel at exchanges on military bases in Germany. Defense officials explained that until Huawei products are explicitly banned by statute or regulation, they will remain available. A bill that would bar U.S. government contractors from using Huawei equipment is currently making its way through Congress. In a February briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the heads of six U.S. intelligence and security agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, advised all American citizens to avoid using Huawei electronics. They expressed similar reservations about Chinese telecom company ZTE. “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” said FBI Director Chris Wray. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” Wray said. Huawei figures prominently in a new report on cyber espionage risks commissioned by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Huawei executives rejected the concerns expressed at the Senate hearing, accusing American government agencies of conspiring to provide U.S. companies with an unfair advantage by keeping Chinese companies out of the market. “Where is U.S. President Donald Trump’s belief in fair trade when he keeps shutting out Chinese companies and products from the U.S. market?” said China’s state-run Xinhua news service in February. “Setting up trade barriers at the excuse of national security might be the worst option to build a prosperous and free market.” Huawei maintained its products are employed by governments around the world, a point echoed by critics of the U.S. intelligence advisory who noted that security-conscious Europeans appear to be as comfortable with using equipment from the Chinese company as they are with suppliers from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. Huawei has grown into the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, surpassed only by Samsung. Also, in a point that would later be echoed by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review report, critics pointed out that Chinese chips can now be found in so many cell phones that it’s difficult to tell which are potentially compromised and which are relatively “clean.”

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