The US is still waiting on concrete proof that the Syrian regime was behind Saturday’s alleged chemical attack, though there is a set of options ready if President Trump decides to strike, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. While US intelligence hasn’t directly confirmed the attack, inspectors are on the way to the site, Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee there are “indicators” that the Syrian government was behind the attack. The use of chemical weapons is “absolutely inexcusable,” he added. No decision has yet been made, Mattis told lawmakers at a hearing shortly before he went to the White House for a National Security Council meeting on the issue. The US needs to be prudent and, if it does strike, find a way to avoid civilian casualties because on a strategic level it is “how we keep this from escalating out of control,” Mattis said. Trump, on Twitter on Thursday, walked back an earlier statement that missiles were coming, saying a strike “could be very soon, or not so soon at all.” Mattis told lawmakers that he would brief Congress “as soon as possible” if a strike occurs, but would not say if a briefing would be in advance. —Brian Everstine
Northrop Grumman on Wednesday received a $209.7 million
contract modification for Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures equipment and support. The LAIRCM system is aimed at increasing aircraft survival through better monitoring of the “electromagnetic threat environment,” according to DOD. The system is designed to detect missiles and then track and jam them to protect aircraft. The new contract modification provides for equipment and support in this year’s base hardware buy and raises the total cumulative face value of the contract to $1.6 billion. —Steve Hirsch
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