Good Friday morning and welcome to MORNING RECON. On this day in 1903, Theordore Roosevelt issues Executive Order placing Midway Islands under jurisdiction of the Navy Department.
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Today's Top Stories
Obama Asks Congress One Last Time to Shutter Guantanamo
From Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post: “On his last day in office, President Obama repeated an eight-year request to Congress: Close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “There is simply no justification beyond politics for the Congress’ insistence on keeping the facility open,” Obama wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan that was released by the White House on Thursday.”
Obama’s View of Syria Threat Level Shaped Legacy of Caution
From Carol E. Lee, Wall Street Journal: “President Barack Obama entered the Oval Office with a promise not to engage the U.S. in protracted and messy conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. As he leaves, his adherence to that promise is muddying his foreign-policy legacy because of how he handled another Mideast crisis: Syria.”
Trump Sweeps Into Washington With a Wave and a Salute
From Nancy Benac, AP: “Trump's public schedule for the inaugural celebration began at Arlington, where he and Pence stood at attention as a bugler played taps at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Trump's wife, children and grandchildren silently looked on.”
Trump Gets the Nuclear Football Today
From Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post: “President-elect Donald Trump becomes President Trump Today. That will give him control over the United States' arsenal of close to 1,400 active nuclear warheads — that is, warheads affixed to ballistic missiles or placed inside bombs at American air bases.”
Trump's National Security Team Is M.I.A.
From Dan De Luce & John Hudson, Foreign Policy: “President-elect Donald Trump will enter the White House Friday with most national security positions still vacant, after a disorganized transition that has stunned and disheartened career government officials.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Unveils New Subcommittee Leaders, Ranking Members
From Scott Nicholas, ExecutiveGov: “The Senate Armed Services Committee has selected chairpersons and ranking members who will lead the panel’s subcommittees in the 115th Congress. SASC said Wednesday Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), respective chairman and ranking member of the committee, will serve as ex-officio members of all armed services subcommittees.”
McCain Laments Cuts for MilSpace R&D Funding
From Phillip Swarts, Space News: “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Defense Department has cut too much from investments into space research and development, putting U.S. orbital assets at risk for threats from Russia and China.”
Army Picks Sig Sauer's P320 Handgun to Replace M9
From Matthew Cox & Hope Hodge Seck, Military.com: “The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the next service pistol based on the company's P320 handgun. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.”
Air Force Mulls Low-Cost Fighter Experiment
From Oriana Pawlyk, DefenseTech: “The Air Force intends to conduct an informal experiment of a potential light attack fighter aircraft the service could use in ongoing counterterrorism air campaigns, the service's top general said Wednesday.”
Trump’s Bigger Army Could Cost $12 Billion
From Anthony Capaccio, Bloomberg: “President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to increase the Army’s active-duty troops to 540,000 from 465,000 today could cost at least an extra $12 billion once the goal is met, based on a formula provided by departing Army Secretary Eric Fanning.”
Cost of Air War Against ISIS Climbs to $11 Billion
From Oriana Pawlyk, DoD Buzz: “The cost of the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State has climbed to nearly $11 billion since its inception, the latest figures show. By the end of 2016, the Defense Department had spent $10.72 billion on Operation Inherent Resolve since the mission began in June 2014, up from $5.5 billion for the period ending the previous year.”
Dead Drop: January 20
From Anonymous, The Cipher Brief: “CHELSEA MOURNING: With a stroke of a pen on Tuesday, President Obama did something that Donald Trump has been unable to do – get members of the Intelligence Community to shift their anger from the incoming administration to the outgoing one. President Obama used his executive powers to commute the sentence of Private Chelsea Manning who had been serving a 35-year sentence for handing over more than 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks. . .”
The XB-70 Valkyrie
From Dave Majumdar, The National Interest: “The North American XB-70 Valkyrie was the largest and fastest bomber ever built by the United States, but the massive six-engine Mach 3.0-capable jet never entered production. Only one surviving prototype sits in a museum in Dayton, Ohio, even as the Boeing B-52 it was supposed to one day replace continues to soldier on.”
No pardon for Bowe Bergdahl
From Nate Poppino, Idaho Statesman: “Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may still have to face a court-martial over leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009, a step he says he took to draw attention to alleged problems within the military. Tuesday and Thursday this week, Obama granted commutations and pardons to about 600 people. Bergdahl wasn’t on the list.”
U.S., TAIWAN: Taiwan Expects Closer U.S. Military Ties
From Ralph Jennings, Voice of America: “Diplomatically isolated Taiwan looks forward to more military cooperation and high-level visits from the United States under Donald Trump after he takes office as U.S. president Friday, though both sides are likely to proceed carefully to avoid a backlash from China.”
U.S., LIBYA: B-2 Stealth Bombers Strike ISIS Militants in Libya
From Richard Sisk, Military.com: “Rarely used Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers carried out massive strikes against two ISIS camps in Libya on Wednesday in what was almost certainly the last combat mission specifically authorized by President Barack Obama.”
COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS
The Necessity of Another Russian Reset . . . and Its Utter Futility
From John R. Deni, RealClearDefense: “Iran has undoubtedly become bolder in its actions against its citizens, the United States and international interests abroad, and more desperate as it maneuvers through mounting economic and international pressure. One need only remember the IRGC – the group that failed to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Oct. 2011 in Washington, D.C. – also controls Iran’s cyber army and thus has command of its offensive and defensive capabilities. Washington should therefore ready its virtual defenses because cyber intrusions of all means and from all opponents are on its doorstep.”
The Threat From Kaliningrad Is Real
From Jorge Benitez, RealClearWorld: "Russian President Vladimir Putin has been deploying more and more forces in a strategic piece of Russian territory that lies in a vulnerable area of NATO geography. How President-elect Donald Trump responds to this challenge will be one of the first tests of his new administration."
The State of Defense 2017
From Kevin Baron, et al., Defense One: "The incoming president said he knows more than “the generals,” and then said he’d order them to write a new ISIS war plan within 60 days of taking office. Many commanders and operators hope it means the gloves to come off — at least regarding the pace of some missions. But good luck finding any generals willing to send in Army divisions and Marine expeditionary units to occupy cities like Mosul, only to sit and wait for Iraqi and Syrian forces and politics to catch up. It’s not happening. Already Trump’s likely defense secretary, retired Gen. Jim Mattis, gave similarly unclear statements to Congress in his confirmation hearing. He wants to get “aggressive” with ISIS, but in Syria said he wants a clearer picture of the end game before committing additional U.S. forces. (Sure, so would we.) Maybe we’ll finally see no-fly zones or “safe passage” zones, whatever you want to call them, but more ops means likelier confrontation with Russia in the skies, with ISIS and Assad on the ground, at the cost of a lot more money and — undoubtedly — lives of elite American military and intelligence operators."
We Need a Two-Ocean Secretary of the Navy
From Paul Giarra, War on the Rocks: “The Navy doesn’t need a savvy businessman as secretary. It needs a mindful and informed leader to continue to insist that the chief of naval operations is allowed to formulate and speak for the Navy’s operational strategy, despite the apparent limitations imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols defense reforms. Together with the chief of naval operations, the Navy secretary needs to be able to articulate not just what the Navy needs, but why it needs that fleet, what it intends to do with it, and where. The next secretary needs to make this case. And then he needs to be able to work with Congress to rationalize the cost and build the fleet the United States needs.”
The Indo-Pacific Aircraft Carrier Race
From Richard A. Bitzinger, Asia Times: “Until quite recently, only two nations in the Asia-Pacific operated fixed-wing carriers: India with a 50-year-old-plus ex-British carrier; and Thailand with its “pocket carrier,” the Chakri Nareubet. Both vessels could only operate aging Harrier jump jets, and most of these aircraft were in fact long inoperable.”
Taiwan Fears Becoming a Pawn in Donald Trump’s Game
From William Kazer, Wall Street Journal: “Taiwanese media commentaries, academics and politicians in both the ruling and opposition parties expressed fears that the new U.S. president will discard the island’s interests in return for concessions from Beijing.”
How Cutting Nuclear Arsenals Could Make World War III More Likely
From Loren Thompson, Forbes: "President-elect Trump has not made up his mind how to deal with the threat of nuclear war, but give him credit for at least acknowledging the problem. Most politicians choose to ignore the 800-megaton gorilla in the room, even though it's the one manmade threat that could wipe out American democracy before inauguration day."
How China Is Weaponizing Outer Space
From Harsh Vasani, The Diplomat: “In the highly “informatized” and technologically advanced battles that characterize the 21st century, outer space will play a dominant role. Space assets direct military operations and help in making crucial battleground decisions. In this regard, attempts to weaponize space and command this sphere are to be expected from great powers. The United States and USSR started weaponizing space in the in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, and China is now following suit.”
Donald Trump Should Isolate Iran Immediately
From Jeb Bush & Dennis Ross, Time: “While Tehran is saber-rattling and threatening our allies in the region, the response from Washington, unfortunately, has remained muted. Time and again, the Obama administration has ignored the comprehensive nature of the Iranian threat and soft-pedaled non-nuclear sanctions seemingly out of fear that Iran would walk away from the nuclear deal.”
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