One giant leap for Space Force: Pentagon seeks ‘orbital outpost’

The Defense Department is seeking a “self-contained and free flying orbital outpost” to serve as a hub for experimentation and testing for the military’s 21st-century space program. In a request for proposals, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) laid out its requirements for the outpost and suggested that the project could be a first step toward ultimately having military personnel on board. “The solution must be capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions,” the DIU said. Moving forward, the Pentagon said “desired future capabilities” of the project include attachment with other outposts in space, orbit transfer, and even “human-rating,” suggesting that the unit should be able to safely house humans. The solicitation for proposals comes as the Pentagon moves forward in establishing U.S. Space Command, a key component of President Trump’s desired Space Force. The Senate last week confirmed Gen. John Raymond to lead Space Command.

Pentagon eyes expanding DARPA future warfare research office

The U.S. Department of Defense is close to expanding its legendary future warfare and technology agency DARPA by combining it with the Pentagon office in charge of adapting existing weapons to new uses, people familiar with the plans said. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would absorb the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and centralize more research units under the Pentagon’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Griffin. The combination would end an experiment with SCO that began as an attempt to adapt to future threats quickly and with less bureaucracy. SCO reported directly to the defense secretary, removing it from traditional bureaucratic channels at the Pentagon. If all of SCO’s $1.3 billion 2020 budget request were transferred to DARPA, DARPA would gain control over 37 percent more funding on top of its 2020 funding request of $3.5 billion. The SCO is charged with developing unexpected and game-changing capabilities to counter emerging threats. The SCO has looked into projects like swarming small drones and transforming the Raytheon Co-made Standard Missile 6, a defensive weapon, into an offensive weapon. Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, initiatives including hypersonic weapons, lasers and space-based projects. Last year, Congress asked the Pentagon to explore how it could shut down the SCO or transfer its functions to another entity. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee rolled out its proposals for a $750 billion 2020 defense budget.

Obama appointees flee Pentagon; Trump left with scores of vacancies to fill

The Pentagon has been stripped of almost all of its political appointees from the Obama administration, but an uncertain Senate future awaits the candidates whom President Trump will nominate to remake the armed forces in his image. Of Mr. Obama’s 163 political appointees at election time, who included Senate-confirmed service secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, only 16 remain at the Defense Department, according to a Pentagon statement to The Washington Times. The exodus might be considered normal in the transfer of power: Political appointees are required to turn in their resignations in December. But Washington’s bitter political climate is far different today from the last transfer of power in 2009. Senate Democrats are resisting Mr. Trump and his agenda via the confirmation process. There is a chance that some of the Defense Department’s 53 appointed positions requiring Senate confirmation will be vacant for a long time. The vacancies give Mr. Trump an opportunity to select men and women who will provide the leadership, policies and catalyst for his two main priorities: rebuilding the military and defeating the Islamic State terrorist group. “I imagine DOD cares more about getting people on board than what a nominee’s vote count is,” said James Carafano, who directs foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation. “If Congress is just going to partisan split all the votes, it won’t damage the appointees in their relations with Congress because the votes don’t really reflect anything about the nomination. DOD has to get down to the business of rebuilding the military. They don’t have time for political posturing by factions in Congress that are upset about how the American people voted.” Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said the Trump team has been wise in giving a cold shoulder to the “NeverTrump” advocates in the Republican Party. “Loyalty to the president, especially one who was as courageous as President Trump on his position against radical Islam, is important,” Mr. McInerney said.

Agreed!!  To read the rest of this article, click on the text above.

Pentagon admits it has deployed military spy drones over the U.S.

The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights have been rare and lawful, according to a new report. The report by a Pentagon inspector general, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said spy drones on non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and always in compliance with existing law. The report, which did not provide details on any of the domestic spying missions, said the Pentagon takes the issue of military drones used on American soil “very seriously.” A senior policy analyst for the ACLU, Jay Stanley, said it is good news no legal violations were found, yet the technology is so advanced that it’s possible laws may require revision. “Sometimes, new technology changes so rapidly that existing law no longer fit what people think are appropriate,” Stanley said. “It’s important to remember that the American people do find this to be a very, very sensitive topic.” The use of unmanned aerial surveillance (UAS) drones over U.S. surfaced in 2013 when then-FBI director Robert Mueller testified before Congress that the bureau employed spy drones to aid investigations, but in a “very,very minimal way, very seldom.” The inspector general analysis was completed March 20, 2015, but not released publicly until last Friday. It said that with advancements in drone technology along with widespread military use overseas, the Pentagon established interim guidance in 2006 governing when and whether the unmanned aircraft could be used domestically. The interim policy allowed spy drones to be used for homeland defense purposes in the U.S. and to assist civil authorities. But the policy said that any use of military drones for civil authorities had to be approved by the Secretary of Defense or someone delegated by the secretary. The report found that defense secretaries have never delegated that responsibility. The report quoted a military law review article that said “the appetite to use them (spy drones) in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow, as does Congressional and media interest in their deployment.” Military units that operate drones told the inspector general they would like more opportunities to fly them on domestic missions if for no other reason than to give pilots more experience to improve their skills, the report said. “Multiple units told us that as forces using the UAS capabilities continue to draw down overseas, opportunities for UAS realistic training and use have decreased,” the report said. A request for all cases between 2006 and 2015 in which civil authorities asked the military for use of spy drones produced a list of “less than twenty events,” the report said. The list included requests granted and denied. The list was not made public in the report. But a few examples were cited, including one case in which an unnamed mayor asked the Marine Corps to use a drone to find potholes in the mayor’s city. The Marines denied the request because obtaining the defense secretary’s “approval to conduct a UAS mission of this type did not make operational sense.” Shortly before the inspector general report was completed a year ago, the Pentagon issued a new policy governing the use of spy drones. It requires the defense secretary to approve all domestic spy drone operations. It says that unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary, drones “may not conduct surveillance on U.S. persons.” It also bans the use of armed drones over the United States for anything other than training and testing.

Def. Sec: ‘Very Angry’ at How Iran Treated Our Sailors — Americans ‘Would Not Have Done That’

Thursday at the Defense Department briefing, while discussing the Jan. 12 incident in which Iran arrested 10 American sailors at gunpoint and showed them on Iranian TV, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the way the Iranians handled the sailors was “not OK,” adding no American would ever treat another country’s military with that level of disrespect. Carter said “I was very, very angry at it. I’m not going give you the international law answer, but I can tell you Americans wouldn’t have done that. I said that before — that for me as secretary of defense, I think it’s probably true of everybody in the department, to see our guys in that situation on Iranian TV, that’s really not OK. And we — again, we would not have done that. And I asked everybody at the time, and I hope everybody keeps that in mind as you think about that— remember as you’re thinking about our guys that you’re looking through the lens of the Iranians. so, they are being debriefed and explaining the circumstances and so forth. Our first interest for their guys was their own health and welfare. The Navy has been attending to that, and that’s important. but — and this is not the way they should have been treated, and it’s very — for certain not the way Americans would have treated foreign sailors in a comparable circumstance.”

Agreed, Mr. Secretary.  But, therefore what?  What are you and your boss (Obama) gonna actually do about it?  Or is your boss and Sec. John Kerry gonna continue to bend over and grab their collective ankles, giving them all sorts of trade deals, billions of of our hard-earned tax dollars, and allow them to build nuclear technology?  Words are cheap, Sir.  Actions speak a LOT louder..

Pentagon admits Afghan forces are unable to ‘entirely operate on their own’

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that Afghanistan forces still can’t “operate entirely on their own” as it explained why U.S. special operations troops were involved in a firefight that killed one of them. The in-combat death of an American in southern Helmand Province came despite President Obama’s declaration in December 2014 that U.S.’s combat mission was over. “These people are in harm’s way,” said Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook at a briefing. “This is the Afghans in the lead …. They’re getting better at defending their own country. But they’re not at a point yet where they are able to operate entirely on their own which is why U.S. forces ….are there.” He also said that the days of the Taliban taking a winter break from combat are over. “It’s a constant fighting season in Afghanistan now,” he said. He said U.S. commandoes in their train, advise and assist role were fighting along side Afghan counter-terrorism forces in Marjah. He had no details on the exact mission. Two medivac helicopters were dispatched. One took fire and turned back. The other was disabled by rotor blades hitting a wall and remained on the scene. The combat death of an unidentified service member, and injuries to two other Americans, comes as a Pentagon report last month said that overall security in the country is “fragile” and has “deteriorated” after 14 years of war. “Although the ANDSF [Afghanistan National Defense and Security Force] maintain a significant capability advantage over the insurgency, insurgents are improving in their ability to find and exploit ANDSF vulnerabilities, making the security situation still fragile in key areas and at risk of deterioration in other places,” the report said. The Taliban have retaken territory, and mounted brazen attacks across the country, such as on the airport in Kandahar in the south and on the city of Kunduz in the north. Terrorists have also successfully set off bombs in Kabul. Just before Christmas, they killed six U.S. Air Force personnel on a foot patrol outside Bagram air base, using suicide biker. Mr. Cook said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter remains confident in the strategy of withdrawing troops while funding and training the Afghans. “They’ve show resilience,” Mr. Cook said of the Afghans. “They’ve shown resilience in Helmand Province.” There are now 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

..which is nowhere near enough troops.  We’re seriously at risk of having what happened in Iraq happen in Afghanistan when Obama foolishly just pulled all the troops out of Iraq back in 2010…which resulted in the creation of ISIS/ISIL.

Chinese fighter jet makes unsafe intercept of Air Force plane over Yellow Sea, Pentagon says

The Pentagon said Tuesday that it was reviewing what it called an “unsafe” intercept of an Air Force reconnaissance plane by at least one Chinese jet over the Yellow Sea last week. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that the American RC-135 was intercepted by a Chinese fighter approximately 80 miles east of northeastern China’s Shandong Peninsula on Sept. 15. Cook said there was no indication that the planes came close to colliding, but the crew of the American plane reported that one of the Chinese jet’s maneuvers appeared to be unsafe. The Wall Street Journal later reported that two Chinese JH-7 aircraft came within 500 feet of the RC-135’s nose while the American plane was conducting a routine patrol in international airspace. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the reported number of Chinese planes involved. The latest incident was disclosed ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was scheduled to spend three days meeting with technology and business leaders in Seattle before arriving in Washington Friday. Beijing has not spoken publicly about the confrontation. Last week’s encounter was the first hostile intercept of a U.S. jet by China since August 2014, when a rogue Chinese pilot harassed several American patrol planes, at one point doing a barrel roll near a Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane. The harassment ceased after the State Department submitted an official complaint. “The long period between this intercept and the last unsafe intercept, as well as the nature of this intercept, indicate that this may be an isolated incident,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this month, a flotilla of Chinese warships passed through U.S. territorial waters in the Bering Sea off Alaska, a maneuver that coincided with President Obama’s visit to the state. The Journal reports that Washington and Beijing have agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” regarding naval encounters in international waters. The agreement is aimed at avoiding provocative actions or misunderstandings. The paper reported that a similar agreement for aerial encounters could be released during Xi’s visit to Washington.

Definitely something to keep an eye on…