Daily Report

June 28, 2019

Disagreements Over SDA’s Way Forward Spurred Director’s Departure

Fred Kennedy left his post as inaugural director of the Space Development Agency as signs pointed to his impending removal from the fledgling agency amid high-level disagreements over the role of commercial industry in launching a large new array of national security payloads, Air Force Magazine has learned. Sources familiar with the situation described Kennedy’s departure as spurred by differences in opinion that prompted him to resign from the dream job he held for about three months. He is the second top official to leave or be forced out of the Defense Department’s year-old research and engineering branch this month, raising concerns about an intolerant environment for fast, cutting-edge research at a time when leaders warn US technology is in danger of falling behind. “We’re starting to see kind of a pattern here that R&E is having a hard time getting its footing and establishing itself as an organization and how it’s going to operate with the rest of the Pentagon,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst and space policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That could thwart this administration’s efforts to steer overall modernization activities and technology development.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Senate Approves $750 Billion Defense Policy Bill

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $750 billion defense policy bill with a vote of 86-8 on June 27, setting up further debate on the need for a new Space Force and exactly what that organization would look like. The legislation also includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for troops, “the largest in a decade,” according to a joint statement from Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and it looks to modernize military technology by investing in artificial intelligence, hypersonics, and cyber warfighting capabilities. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

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NATO Secretary General: We Will Stay in Afghanistan As Long as Necessary

Ongoing support to Afghanistan was “high on the agenda” as NATO’s defense ministers, including the United States’ new acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, gathered in Brussels for a ministerial meeting June 26-27. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that “roughly half” of the troops participating in the Resolute Support mission there are from the US, saying the best way NATO can support the peace effort is to remain committed to the train, advise, and assist mission there. That’s why the Alliance has committed to financially support Afghan Security Forces through 2024 and is preparing to send another rotation of troops to the country in the near future. “We will stay in Afghanistan for as long as necessary, to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” Stoltenberg added. His comments come days after two US soldiers were killed in combat operations in Afghanistan, prompting a rather heated exchange amongst democratic presidential hopefuls on June 26 about the merits of remaining in the country. Read the full story by Amy McCullough and Rachel S. Cohen.

US, Singapore to Collaborate on AI-Enabled Disaster Relief Response

The Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Singapore’s Defense Science and Technology Agency want to find ways to use artificial intelligence for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations in the Pacific, according to a joint release. “The Asia-Pacific is prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, flooding, landslides, and volcanic eruptions that affect millions of people every year,” states the release. “Responses to these disasters often involve many organizations and multiple countries.” JAIC and Singapore’s DSTA recently conducted a multi-day technology exchange in advance of the Singapore Defense Technology Summit in an effort to operationalize and integrate AI across these organizations. “With AI-enabled HA/DR, the first responders and rescuers can better serve in those disaster-affected areas,” by reducing response time and better allocating resources, states the release.

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Air Force Pushes Back on House Lawmakers B-52 Engine Replacement Concerns

The Air Force wants to sprint toward buying new engines for the venerable B-52 bomber as quickly as possible. But disagreements between the service and House lawmakers over the Air Force’s acquisition approach threaten to slow down the program. Defense News

Air Force to Continue to Push Back on Proposed Space Launch Legislation

Air Force officials continue to press their case against legislative efforts to allow more than two companies to receive contracts in the next phase of the national security space launch program. Space News

The Air Force’s Five Principles to Advance Artificial Intelligence

The Air Force has been on an almost three-year journey to integrate artificial intelligence into operations and that effort will soon be more apparent as the service plans to declassify its artificial intelligence strategy, Capt. Michael Kanaan, the service’s co-chair for artificial intelligence, said June 26 at the AI World Government Conference in Washington, D.C. C4ISRNET

In Japan, Trump Begins Talks on Trade, Iran, North Korea

President Donald Trump began his most consequential overseas trip of the year on Thursday with a warm dinner with the prime minister of Australia, a friendly opening act before the impending gauntlet of negotiations on international crises, trade wars, and a growing global to-do list. Associated Press

New Pentagon Chief Confronts Turkey on NATO Debut

President Donald Trump’s pick for Pentagon chief plunged straight into business as he made his NATO debut June 26, confronting Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defense missiles. Agence France Presse via Military.com

Gillibrand and Schatz Announce “Restore Honor to Service Members Act” to Clear Discriminatory Records of Service Members Discharged Due to Sexual Orientation

U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) today announced legislation to correct the military records of service members who were discharged solely due to their sexual orientation. Press release via the Office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Trump Orders Rule Allowing Military Academy Grads To Defer Service To Play Pro Sports

President Trump is ordering the Pentagon to rewrite a rule allowing athletes to delay mandatory active service in order to play professional sports directly upon graduation. NPR

Russia Reportedly Developing Its Own AC-130-Like Gunship From Converted An-12 Cargo Planes

The project will start with converting a single Antonov An-12 to carry a pair of 57mm cannons to help with further development of the final design. The Drive

One More Thing

New Stretcher Can Isolate Wounded on Battlefields

Peke Safety, which provides equipment for first responders, worked with SOCOM to develop the device, which was dubbed the “MilPod.” The stretcher has a single-piece inflatable frame covered by a clear envelope that inflates in about nine seconds and creates a portable chemical- and biohazard-ready isolation chamber. National Defense Magazine