Situation Report: Ash Carter on tech trail; Russian selfies do what selfies do; Europe back in the mix; Iceland warms to Washington; FP podcasts; and lots more
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Dots and loops. Defense Secretary Ash Carter continues his technology push in St. Louis on Wednesday as he kicks off a three-day tech fest hosted by DARPA, the Pentagon’s in-house tech think tank and tech incubator. The “Wait What?” future technology forum will bring together 1,200 scientists, engineers and ...
By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley
Dots and loops. Defense Secretary Ash Carter continues his technology push in St. Louis on Wednesday as he kicks off a three-day tech fest hosted by DARPA, the Pentagon’s in-house tech think tank and tech incubator.
The “Wait What?” future technology forum will bring together 1,200 scientists, engineers and potential investors from across the country to try and kickstart new ideas for the military. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Tuesday that the public should look at Carter’s trip — following two recent trips to Silicon Valley to try and woo uncertain tech startups to work with the government — as a sign that the Department of Defense is “open for business and we are eager to do business with any company, any innovators out there who might have technology that could bolster the warfighter, bolster this department going forward.”
Road trip. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work met in Oslo on Tuesday with NATO members Denmark, Iceland and Norway, along with reps from Finland and Sweden, the latter of which has kicked off a critical a national debate over whether or not to join the alliance. During Work’s visit to Iceland earlier in the week, officials there appeared open to the American military moving back into U.S. installations there which the U.S. Air Force had abandoned in 2006. Russian planes have taken to buzzing Icelandic airspace, and according to a 1951 treaty, the United States is responsible for the defense of the tiny island. Senior Commander Jon Guonason, commander of the Keflavik airbase, said during the tour on Monday, ”there is lots of empty space here…a lot of space for new construction and facilities.”
Russian selfies. Members of Russia’s 810th Marine Brigade have deployed to Syria, and we have the selfies to prove it. FP’s Reid Standish flags a report by Russian investigative journalist Ruslan Leviev, who has been tracking the social media habits of a growing number of Russian troops sent to a Russian naval facility in Tartus, in western Syria. Washington has grown increasingly concerned over Russian military support for the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, though Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed those concerns on Monday, saying Russia “has never concealed that it delivers military equipment to official Syrian authorities with the aim of combating terrorism.”
Frequent flyers. Over the last several weeks Russian cargo planes have delivered prefabricated housing for as many as 1,000 personnel and a portable air traffic control station to the Latakia airfield in Syria, and several other troop transport planes have landed at the base. The White House has asked Greece to block overflights by Russian planes, and Bulgaria has already agreed to American requests to block Russian transport planes from its airspace. While Washington and Moscow are on the same page when it comes to the threat posed by the Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t wavered in his support of the Syrian dictator, while President Barack Obama has taken a more tortured route to arriving at the current U.S. strategy, which continues to change week to week.
On Wednesday, Lavrov also accused the U.S. — in a quote that must come from a Morrissey song somewhere — of “international boorishness” in requesting that Greece and Bulgaria give Russian transport planes a hard time.
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Today, Foreign Policy introduces FP Podcasts, an innovative series of programs featuring insightful, witty, and uniquely informed conversations with the brightest minds in Washington and the world. The first episode from The Editor’s Roundtable has David Rothkopf discussing the implications of the Iran deal with Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake, and Robert Kagan. We’d love to have you listen, and we’d love to have you subscribe: http://atfp.co/1K7nhrI
Do you enjoy the Pentagon’s many deep fried food options at one of the conveniently located food courts sprinkled throughout the building? Maybe swipe your credit card through while grabbing a Whopper or some sushi in between budget drills or preparing the chiefs’ latest bit of testimony? Well, check your balance, because the credit card system in the building has been hacked, and some Pentagon staffers have reported fraudulent charges on their cards. While the hack doesn’t quite rise to the level of the intrusion on the unclassified email system used by the Joint Chiefs or the DoD employees busted for having signed up at cheating Website Ashley Madison, it’s an intrusion nonetheless, and is creating headaches across the department.
After a brief flare up late this summer, it appears that the fighting in eastern Ukraine has quieted down significantly. Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak announced that attacks from Russian-backed rebels are at their lowest frequency since the conflict began. The fighting had reached a new intensity in August after a nominal ceasefire signed in February fell apart completely, but both parties appear to be adhering to a more recent ceasefire agreement which went into effect September 1st.
In the wake of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that a British drone strike recently targeted and killed two of its nationals, we’re learning that there are more citizens on the country’s kill list. The Daily Telegraph reports that there are five more Britons on the country’s target list, and Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John,” the executioner in the Islamic State’s gruesome beheading videos, is apparently at the very top of it.
Who’s where when
10:00 a.m. Itsunori Onodera, the 12th Minister of Defense of Japan who served between 2012 and 2014, speaks at the Stimson Center on the recent changes in the Japanese security posture.
2:00 p.m. The House Armed Services Committee is jumping into what promises to be the big-ticket Pentagon acquisition program of the year, and is holding a hearing looking at the Air Force’s proposed long range strike bomber program. Wednesday’s panel, titled, “The Future of Air Force Long-Range Strike—capabilities and employment concepts,” features (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, Jr. of George Mason University; Mark Gunzinger from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and Dr. Rebecca Grant, president of IRIS Independent Research.
Turkish troops briefly crossed the border into Iraq on Tuesday to pursue militants from the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which both the U.S. and Turkey have designated as a terrorist group. The crossborder mission came after bombings by Kurdish militants over the weekend and on Tuesday killed 30 Turkish police and civilians.
The gruesome tally: 196 dead. That’s the number of American soldiers killed by explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs) — the armor-piercing improvised explosive devices Iran shipped to its proxies in Iraq throughout the Iraq war, according to new data released by the U.S. Central Command. The number of American troops killed by the Iranian-provided weapons has emerged as a recent point of contention in the debate over the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) has claimed that EFPs claimed the lives of 500 troops and that the United States should not make concessions to a country with so much American blood on its hands. Cruz’s statistic is based on recent testimony by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who stated that Iran helped kill over 500 Americans in Iraq during the war.
Over at 38 North, the expert North Korea analysis site, William Mugford and Jack Liu take a look at satellite imagery of two nuclear facilities and find increased activity at two locations used in the production of plutonium. The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and the five Megawatt Reactor and Radiochemical Laboratory complex showed increased vehicular activity in August. While it’s not yet possible to say what the uptick in vehicle traffic implies, an increase in nuclear weapons fuel is among the more concerning possibilities, given North Korea’s recent provocative actions.
Business of defense
The award for the last big U.S. Army ground vehicle program for the foreseeable future has gone to truck maker Oshkosh, who the service tapped to build 55,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in a deal worth as much as $30 billion. But as these things go, it won’t happen without a fight. Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, is protesting Oshkosh’s win, claiming that it has the best design out there.
Lockheed spokesman John Kent emails SitRep that “after evaluating the data provided at our debrief…we firmly believe we offered the most capable and affordable solution for the program. Lockheed Martin does not take protests lightly, but we are protesting to address our concerns regarding the evaluation of Lockheed Martin’s offer.”
Fellow competitor AM General — which makes the Humvee that the JLTV will partially replace, said on Tuesday that it won’t protest the decision, since it still has plenty of work upgrading the 160,000 Humvees that the Army and Marines plan on keeping in their fleets, along with the 230,000 Hummers currently in the hands of allies around the world.
Budget guru Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a new bit of analysis predicting that Congress will be so consumed with debating the nuclear deal with Iran over the coming weeks, that passing an actual federal budget will likely be beyond its reach. Instead, the Hill will do what it has been doing for the past several years — push through a stopgap “continuing resolution” (CR) to keep the machine running, at least temporarily.
“It is virtually certain at this point that the new fiscal year will start under a short-term continuing resolution,” he writes, during which the Hill will have some time to try and pound out something similar to the Ryan-Murray deal from December 2013 which raised the budget caps for defense and non-defense spending for 2014 and 2015. “But the prospects for a ‘Ryan-Murray II’ don’t appear promising at the moment,” he writes. “It’s not clear who the negotiating partners on each side will be since both Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray no longer chair the budget committees, and there are no signs yet that any serious discussions have begun.” In the absence of a deal by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, a fallback plan would be yet another CR, which no one wants since “new programs can’t start, existing programs can’t increase production, and funding in all accounts is stuck at last year’s levels.” Welcome back to the new normal.