US, Turkey Reach Ceasefire, Pushing Kurdish Fighters Away from Syrian Border

The US and Turkey on Oct. 17 reached a ceasefire agreement, aimed at ending violence between Turks and Kurds in northern Syria, that meets Ankara’s military objectives by requiring Kurdish fighters to withdraw from an approximately 20-mile “buffer” zone along the Turkey-Syria border. The ceasefire, announced by Vice President Mike Pence during a visit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gives Syrian Kurdish fighters 120 hours to leave the area. Once the five days are over and the agreement’s conditions are met, the US will lift sanctions imposed on Turkey by a recent executive order. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

DOD’s “Black-Start” Exercises Explore What Happens When Utilities Go Dark

Pentagon officials are running a series of “black-start” exercises designed to test the military’s resilience in the face of a major power outage or other utilities failures, they told lawmakers at an Oct. 16 hearing on how their installations are preparing for future threats. “We can do all the tabletop exercises in the world, but when you actually pull the plug, the question is, what actually goes on” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon said at the hearing hosted by two House Armed Services subcommittees. John Henderson, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and energy, said in written testimony the service has completed one tabletop exercise and one “pull-the-plug” exercise using a new framework for utilities blackouts. One more USAF exercise is scheduled for 2019 and three are proposed for 2020. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Mature GBSD Reentry Vehicle

Lockheed Martin on Oct. 16 won a $108.3 million contract to mature its design for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent’s future Mark 21A reentry vehicle, signaling the Air Force still plans to pursue that effort despite a federal decision not to develop a new warhead that would sit inside the aeroshell. The company will “provide a low technical risk and affordable RV capable of delivering the W87-1 warhead” from the modernized, land-based nuclear missiles, according to a Defense Department announcement. Reentry vehicles carry and protect the warheads inside. The W87-1 is the designation for a replacement GBSD warhead that the National Nuclear Security Administration is pursuing instead of its earlier plan for an interoperable warhead that combines Air Force and Navy assets. The two services could decide to use the Mark 21A on land- and sea-based nuclear weapons, Inside Defense reported last year. The Air Force has said developing and buying a new reentry vehicle could cost as much as $3 billion, with the first assets slated for delivery in fiscal year 2030. —Rachel S. Cohen

EOD Airmen to Get New PT Test in June

Explosive ordnance disposal airmen are the next to get a new type of fitness test, built for their career field, starting in June 2020. Instead of the legacy test airmen normally take, EOD specialists will face the updated “Tier 2” fitness test, which includes a 1.5-mile run, rowing, medicine ball tosses, deadlifts, pullups, cross-knee crunches, sandbag carries, and grip strength and endurance tests. Additionally, airmen will complete a test called the “Gruseter,” combining pushups, planks, and rolling over a sandbag, according to an Air Force release. The change follows similar steps taken for airmen such as combat controllers, pararescuemen, and special reconnaissance personnel. Security forces and firefighters are expected to follow suit, according to the Air Force. Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright are pursuing an overall shift in how the service approaches physical fitness, aiming to focus on overall health and wellness instead of the pass-fail mindset that comes with a PT test. —Brian Everstine

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What It Means for American Bases in Syria to Be Occupied by Syrian and Russian Forces

As US forces make a grab for the exit from Syria in a hurry, reports and video coming in suggest they are dumping equipment and leaving bases intact while stripping sensitive items. And that could create a problem for any future efforts to fight the Islamic State, said one Marine veteran who went on to fight with the Syrian Democratic Forces after leaving the Corps. Military Times

Liz Cheney’s Turkey Sanctions Bill Would Ban US Arms Sales

More than 90 of US President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the House were poised Oct. 16 to introduce sanctions against Turkey aimed at ending its assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria—an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Defense News

Pentagon Awards Patriot Radar Deal to Raytheon

The Pentagon on Oct. 17 awarded Raytheon Co. a contract valued by analysts at up to $5 billion to build a new radar for the Patriot missile defense system, concluding one of the year’s most closely watched weapons contests. The Patriot is one of Raytheon’s biggest franchises, and a loss of the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor system deal could have threatened its long-term role in what has been one of its best sellers to international customers and the US Army. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
Army Outlines Strategic Priorities for Space Capabilities
The Army is crafting a new space strategy focused on four key aspects of warfighting, a modernization leader said Oct 16. The mission areas include: communication; positioning, navigation, and timing; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; battle management, and command and control, said Willie Nelson, director of the Army’s positioning, navigation, and timing cross-functional team. National Defense Magazine
Exercise Polar Force Tests Agile Combat Employment
Exercise Polar Force 20-1, a biannual two-week mission readiness exercise designed to test multiple elements of the Agile Combat Employment concept of operations, ended Oct. 10. The exercise allowed soldiers and airmen from units across JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to develop and strengthen the skills required to operate in austere environments and in adverse situations. USAF release
USAF Awards Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service Contract to Accenture
The US Air Force has awarded a $66 million other transaction agreement to Accenture Federal Services to provide enterprise-IT-as-a-service compute and store services. The USAF bases to be served under the OTA are Maxwell AFB, Ala., Buckley AFB, Colo., JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Offutt AFB, Neb., Cannon AFB, N.M., and Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Building the Public’s Trust in AI Is Key to Coming Guidance, White House Official Says

The administration’s assistant director for artificial intelligence shared details about an in-the-works memo to modernize agencies’ regulatory approaches to the emerging tech. Nextgov

One More Thing

WATCH LIVE: NASA Conducts First All-Female Spacewalk

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the space station at 7:50 a.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 18. Coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EST, courtesy of NASA TV. PBS NewsHour on YouTube