US Lacks “Unblinking Eye” on North Korea, Says PACOM Boss
US Pacific Command boss Adm. Harry Harris told Congress last week he doesn’t have enough intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in theater. That includes the RC-135 Rivet Joint, which he said conducts a “large portion” of the signals intelligences in the Western Pacific, including intel focused on North Korea and the South China Sea. “I don’t have enough because there isn’t enough to go around,” said Harris, during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting there is only a “fixed amount of ISR assets,” and demand continues to increase. “I think all of the combatant commanders would tell you that none of us have all that we want.” However, Harris’ comments come after the White House announced that President Trump planned to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong un in part over that country’s aggressive nuclear and ballistic missile testing programs. “The biggest challenge with North Korea is their nuclear program, … both their … missile development program and their weapons themselves,” said Harris. “One of the areas that I need help in, that I don’t have, is persistent ISR, so I can keep … an unblinking eye on North Korea, which we do not have today.” —Amy McCullough
Congress Working to Head Off Another Spending Crisis
Congressional negotiators were working late Monday to come up with a spending bill to head off the threat of another government shutdown and keep the federal government operating through September. Members were reportedly working on a $1.3 trillion spending bill that could allow a House vote Wednesday. The talks are the latest chapter in this fiscal year’s budget saga, which has included enactment of five continuing resolutions. The last such temporary spending measure funded the government through this Friday and was attached to a two-year budget agreement that included increases in defense spending. Details were expected to be released late Monday, but as The Associated Press reported Monday afternoon, Democrats had rejected a White House offer to extend protections for Dreamer immigrants in return for $25 billion on funding for President Trump’s proposed Mexican border wall. The budget standoff has already shut the government down twice this year, once for three days in January and once for a few hours last month. If Congress does not pass spending legislation this week, there could be another shutdown. —Steve Hirsch
Joint Chiefs Chairman in Afghanistan to Measure Success of US Plan
Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan Monday to gauge the success of the US plan following the plus-up of US military personnel in the country, according to the Defense Department. He told reporters he wants to talk with “the actual advisors who are working on the ground with the Afghans every day and make some conclusions about where we are.” Dunford is traveling senior members of the Joint Staff who specialize in intelligence, strategy, and logistics, as well as Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, his senior enlisted advisor. The officials will travel throughout the country to gather information for Dunford on how the effort is going. Dunford’s trip follows what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called a successful Middle East trip. Mattis, who visited Bagram Airfield on March 14, said Afghanistan’s government “has been through some tough times and I think … internally, they have overcome some of those challenges and are continuing to move forward.” He also pointed to “more of an alignment now [between] military [and] nonmilitary aspects of the campaign” to achieve reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “Right now, it’s clear the wind has gone out of the Taliban’s sails some months ago,” Mattis told reporters. —Steve Hirsch
USAFE Commander Says More Troops Headed to Romania
Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, reportedly told journalists on Monday the Air Force will be sending more troops to Romania. “You can expect that the rotational presence with US Air Force troops will continue to increase in Romania as it has in recent years,” Wolters told reporters on a conference call, according to a local press report. He said the United States is prepared to become involved in the improvement of the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base. Romanian Defense Minister Mihai Fifor last month asked for a permanent presence of US soldiers at the base, according to the press report.
Air Force Academy Said to Ask for Outside Review After Hazing Reports
The Air Force Academy is calling for an outside review of its sports teams following hazing incidents involving its swimming and lacrosse programs, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Saturday. According to the report, over a dozen lacrosse players and coaches were suspended in October in the middle of an investigation described by sources as tied at least partially to hazing. Last month, the report said, it was announced that 11 members of the men’s swimming team had been suspended in an incident sources also described as linked to hazing. When reached by Air Force Magazine, the Academy declined to comment. “Here’s the bottom line for me—I don’t have to win games or matches or championships,” academy Athletic Director Jim Knowlton told the Gazette. “I do have to be a key cog in creating leaders of character.” —Steve Hirsch
—The Chief of Staff of the Air Force announced new assignments for nine general officers: DOD release.
—The Travis Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is investigating explosive residue found in the mailroom at Travis AFB, Calif., on Friday. The mailroom was temporarily shut down and pedestrian traffic was diverted around the area: The Reporter.
—The Pentagon is trying to figure out what role it should play in Africa after four special forces soldiers were killed in Niger: Washington Post.
—Raytheon was awarded a $511 million contract for the Cobra Dane radar. Work will mostly be performed at Eareckson AS, Alaska, and is slated for completion in March 2025: DOD release.
—The commander of Russian Airborne Troops recently reported a 20 percent increase in capabilities since 2012, due mostly to new and modernized equipment: IHS Jane’s.