Shanahan: US Withdrawal from Afghanistan Won’t be Unilateral

The US will coordinate any planned moves in Afghanistan closely with NATO as peace talks continue with the Taliban and will not leave the fight unilaterally, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday. President Trump has said he wants to leave the country, and expressed frustration with a lack of progress in the war. Shanahan, speaking at the end of a meeting with NATO defense ministers in Brussels, said any changes “will be coordinated. We’re together.” The statement comes as US negotiators have met with the Taliban, without representatives from NATO or Afghanistan, to work toward a “framework” for peace. At the NATO meeting, officials discussed “how do we double down” in support of Afghan forces and “put even more pressure on the Taliban” to create “diplomatic leverage” for the negotiations. “We need to talk about the possibility for peace, this may be our moment,” Shanahan said. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in his closing speech, said the future of the mission is something the entire organization needs to focus on together. “We are in this mission together and we will take decisions regarding the future of the mission together,” he said.—Brian Everstine

USAFA Superintendent Details Academy Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault, Harassment

The Air Force Academy, along with the broader Air Force, is taking Defense Department findings on sexual assault, sexual harassment, and culture- and climate-related issues at the school seriously, and is taking steps and planning other initiatives to tackle them, the head of the Academy told lawmakers this week. These steps include boosting on-campus video surveillance and making more students expelled due to sexual misbehavior repay USAF for the cost of their education, no matter their class year. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

Embracing New Oversight Role, STRATCOM Creates NC3 Enterprise Center

A new nuclear command, control, and communications center will help Strategic Command oversee and plan for an updated network of satellites, aircraft, and software that connects leadership to the arsenal, a senior command official said Thursday at a Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill. USAF Maj. Gen. Stephen Davis, STRATCOM’s global operations director, said the NC3 Enterprise Center will be up and running in April. “The NEC will improve current NC3 effectiveness and efficiency while defining future capability requirements,” he said. “The NEC will also establish core NC3 operational concepts as the basis for aligning the right mix of multidomain capabilities necessary to execute nuclear command-and-control missions and achieve our strategic defense objectives.” Last year, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis put STRATCOM boss Gen. John Hyten in charge of overseeing NC3 operations, requirements, and integration as the military sustains its current assets and decides what to buy next. Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord supports Hyten by managing NC3 resourcing from a high-level portfolio perspective. In recent years, the Air Force has also created an NC3 program executive office and integration directorate to handle life-cycle issues and an NC3 Center to manage operations within Air Force Global Strike Command. —Rachel S. Cohen

CYBERCOM Chief: 133 Cyber Teams Will Be Insufficient as Adversaries Improve

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on US Cyber Command’s Fiscal 2020 outlook, CYBERCOM boss Gen. Paul Nakasone told lawmakers 133 Cyber Mission Force teams will not be enough to combat adversaries as they get better at attacking networks. The Pentagon announced its new 6,200-member cyber cadre reached full capability last year. Nakasone also noted a new Defense Department pathfinder to improve how the military shares cybersecurity data with other government agencies. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

USAF Could Build New Nuclear Capability After INF Treaty Dissolves, If Called Upon

Now that the US has signaled its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Air Force is in a position to create new nuclear capabilities if called upon, the head of nuclear integration for the service said Thursday. The Trump Administration and the State Department earlier this month announced US intention to withdraw from the INF, citing years of Russian violation of the treaty. Unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance in early April, the US will be out. Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said that this move “opens up the door” to building a new intermediate-range capability, but it is “up to senior leaders to determine where we go” after the treaty. Russia has long ignored the treaty, so withdrawing means the US is “on even footing now with our adversaries,” Clark said at the 2019 Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Arlington, Va. For now, the New START Treaty remains and “as long as all participants are abiding” by it, it is valuable. However, if this treaty ends up like the INF Treaty and ignored by Russia, then “it puts us at a disadvantage and I think we have to take a look at it,” he said. —Brian Everstine



Heather Wilson Stays Mum on Defense Secretary Rumors

The Air Force secretary doesn’t deny an interest in serving as Jim Mattis’ successor. Politico

Senators Vow Urgent Reform to Correct ‘Unacceptable’ Military Housing Conditions

US Senators scolded real estate executives and Pentagon leadership over “unacceptable” conditions in privatized military housing on Wednesday, vowing urgent reform to protect service families from widespread health and safety hazards in base homes. Reuters

The United Kingdom Wants a Drone Swarm by 2022

The question is not if the drones will swarm, but when. Drones are touted as labor-saving devices, but few of the remotely controlled piloted vehicles in service presently can actually match that claim, since it still takes at least one pilot per drone. In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute on February 11, 2019, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the United Kingdom was ready to develop and deploy a swarm of drones by the end of 2019. C4ISRnet

GOP Rep Deployed to Southern Border with Air National Guard Unit

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) was deployed to the southern border this week with his Air National Guard unit, a spokeswoman said in a statement. The Hill

Air Force Takes Over Investigation of Fatal Car Crash Involving Ramstein Airman

German officials will allow the Air Force to decide whether to prosecute a U.S. airman who killed a German teenager last week in a car wreck near Ramstein Air Base. Stars and Stripes

One more thing …

Three Vandenberg Civilians Save the Air Force $1 Billion

Three civilians from the 30th Contracting Squadron saved $1 billion for the Air Force here January 2012 through January 2019. Vandenberg Air Force Base News