Trump to Congress: End the Dangerous Defense Sequester
In his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump called on Congress to “end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.” Echoing the recently released National Security Strategy, Trump said both China and Russia present a challenge to the United States’ “interests, economy, and values,” adding that, “Weakness is the surest path to conflict and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense.” He acknowledged “North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles” and called on the US to “modernize and rebuild” its own nuclear arsenal, “making it so strong and so powerful it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else.” He said, “Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment where countries of the world get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons, unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly.” He praised the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, noting the terrorist group has lost “very close to 100 percent” of the territory it once claimed. However, he said there is still “much more work to be done,” and he vowed to “continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.” —Amy McCullough
North Korea Hasn’t Shown True ICBM Ability, But Warning Time Shrinks
It isn’t clear yet that Kim Jong Un actually possesses a usable nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the US, but it already has the means to launch such a weapon in a way that gives the US very limited warning time, said Gen. Paul Selva, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Selva told reporters on Tuesday it would be hard for North Korea to carry out re-entry vehicle tests underground, so it’s possible the capability doesn’t exist yet. But North Korea has missile erectors that can raise a missile already prepared for launch in less than 15 minutes. Selva also discussed how the US could respond if the situation deteriorated to the point of hostilities, but said the US does not preemptively strike targets. However, in context with other provocations, missile deployments might signal that “it’s on” and all of Kim Jong Un’s missile infrastructure would be fair game. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.
US Still in the Hypersonics Game, But China’s Lead Comes From Funding
The US has given up its lead in hypersonics to China, because that country has made a massive and expensive push to dominate it, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USAF Gen. Paul Selva reported Tuesday. He explained that the US has taken a lower-cost approach to develop a “family” of hypersonic weapons, which he suggested looks to accomplish achievable results first and will then move on to thornier challenges. Selva also said there are three major hypersonic efforts underway at the Pentagon, led by DARPA, the Navy, and a third entity he declined to name. Read the full report by John A. Tirpak.
Loss of Datalink, Crew’s Inability to Follow Checklist Caused 2016 MQ-1B Crash
An armed MQ-1B Predator crashed in an undisclosed area in the Middle East in early 2016 because of a degraded datalink, causing “ill-informed” inputs and a subsequent loss of control, Air Combat Command announced Tuesday. On Feb. 2, 2016, the MQ-1B, assigned to the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev, and operated by a launch and recovery element from the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Incirlik AB, Turkey, was flying a combat support mission in an undisclosed location. During flight, the Predator lost its “C-band downlink” above 2,000 feet and the crew failed to execute the proper checklist procedure. This caused “ill-informed control inputs,” prompting a loss of control. At the same time, an underperforming turbocharger in the aircraft distracted the crew from the checklist procedures, according to an ACC release. The crew tried to return to the RPA to the base, but lost control. The aircraft executed a left yaw and roll into an unrecoverable spin. The MQ-1B crashed with its munitions, at a loss of $4.1 million, according to ACC. “No one reported any injuries or deaths, only minor damages to a cultivated field,” according to the full report. —Brian Everstine
Watchdog Criticizes Afghanistan Progress, Claims DOD Blocking Release of Public Data
The Pentagon’s watchdog for the war in Afghanistan claims in a new report to Congress that the Defense Department has blocked them from releasing the amount of territory controlled by the Taliban, the first time this information has been kept from the public. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction also says in its report the uptick in US airstrikes in the country have not made a sizable impact. The Pentagon, however, said Tuesday the decision to leave out the breakdown of districts was a mistake. Resolute Support did not intend to withhold the information to SIGAR, it was the result of a “human error in labeling.” Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Air Force Considering Closing Small Colorado C-21 Guard Squadron
The Air Force is moving forward on a plan to close a Colorado Air National Guard squadron, but the plan is getting harsh resistance from one of the state’s lawmakers. The Air Force wants to cut the 200th Airlift Squadron, a small Guard unit at Peterson Air Force Base that flies C-21 executive transport jets. The squadron has two planes and 17 pilots, and the Air Force plans to save about $10 million by divesting the aircraft and closing the squadron, the service said in a September 2017 letter to Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). In January, the service penned a second letter, Lamborn saying it will work with the National Guard Bureau to help the airmen find new jobs. The letter listed several possibilities, including an F-16 squadron at Buckley AFB, Colo., a Reserve C-130 squadron, or space missions at Peterson. But Lamborn says these options are not “viable,” and is raising concerns about the move with the Air Force, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Air National Guard, his office said in a statement to Air Force Magazine. The Colorado National Guard is questioning whether? the move will actually save any money, and is waiting on a response from the Air Force on whether it will reconsider its plans. “The 200th is the most efficient and effective operational support airlift squadron in the Air Force, delivering great results, proven by the fact that the 200th has won the Joint Operational Airlift Center small unit award seven years in a row,” Colorado National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Michael Loh told the Associated Press. —Brian Everstine
The headline and an entry in the Jan. 30 Daily Report incorrectly stated how many square miles B-1s covered during a six-month deployment to the Pacific area of operations. It was 100 million square miles, which is the size of the US Pacific Command AOR. That does not mean the bombers actually flew that distance. We corrected the entry online.
—The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted 250-166 to approve a $569.2 billion standalone defense appropriations bill providing a full-year of funding for the Pentagon, in a largely symbolic move as the bill lacks broad enough support in the Senate: The Hill.
—Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited Osan AB, South Korea, telling airmen, “No place on the world is more important than here, now, for our airmen [and allies] to be ready:” USAF release.
—The Pentagon has announced an outreach effort to counter the growing civilian/military divide: Defense Department release.
—Three B-52s that deployed to Europe for training missions with allies across the continent returned home to Minot AFB, N.D., on Tuesday: USAFE Twitter post.
—A Hawaii state employee intentionally sent the alert of an inbound ballistic missile earlier this month, saying she misinterpreted testing instructions from a midnight shift supervisor and believed the threat was real: New York Times.