GAO Report on Contested Information Environments

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders. From the report What GAO Found Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make […]

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders.

From the report

What GAO Found
Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make effective decisions. The information environment––that is, the aggregate of factors that affect how humans and automated systems derive meaning from, act upon, and are impacted by information—is at risk of adversaries from anywhere attacking and contesting it to undermine DOD operations. In 2017 DOD elevated “information” as a joint function, and in 2019 it identified Globally Integrated Operations in the Information Environment as a special area of emphasis for education. As adversaries increasingly aim to distort or compromise information available to leaders, the focus on leader decision-making approaches becomes more important to minimize negative effects on military readiness and the successful execution of military operations (see figure). DOD continues to take steps—such as establishing a doctrinal, operational, and technical framework—to improve its understanding of and effective operation in increasingly contested information environments.

As part of its efforts to prepare for contested information environments, DOD offers education and training for its leaders. However, DOD components are unclear about what information environment aspects to cover in such education and training because guidance does not specify what content to include. DOD officials also reported having limited resources for their education and training efforts and cited simulation, infrastructure, and personnel limitations as further impeding these efforts. Officials stated that these limitations hinder the creation of realistic environments in which leaders can practice decision-making skills. However, DOD has not assessed or comprehensively reviewed component assessments of resources. Until DOD develops guidance and assesses its resources, it will lack assurance that it will be able to educate and train leaders to prepare them to make decisions in a contested information environment.

Why GAO Did This Study
According to DOD, our competitors and adversaries are taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the information environment to advance their national objectives and offset the U.S.’s position as the preeminent warfighting force. DOD’s military operations in the information environment play a pivotal role in engaging our adversaries.House Report 117-118 included a provision for GAO to review DOD training that prepares leaders and service members to operate and make decisions in a contested information environment. In this report, GAO (1) describes DOD guidance that supports the department’s education and training efforts to prepare leaders to make decisions in a contested information environment and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD provides education and training designed to prepare leaders to make such decisions.GAO reviewed selected DOD strategies, policies, and course syllabi; analyzed information related to the conduct of military exercises; and interviewed officials with knowledge of the department’s education and training efforts.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOD (1) develop guidance about what content to incorporate in its education and training related to decision-making in a contested information environment and (2) assess the resources necessary to meet related education and training needs. DOD generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Download the document here.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Jan. 30, 2023

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Jan. 30, 2023, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. Ships Underway Total Battle […]

USNI News Graphic

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Jan. 30, 2023, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
293
(USS 237, USNS 56)
102
(USS 67, USNS 35)
 58
(42 Deployed, 16 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
1 1 1 11 20 68 102

In Japan

A sailor aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) working in the hangar bay on Jan. 30, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is in port in Yokosuka, Japan.

In the Philippine Sea

Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly in a MV-22B Osprey during a rehearsal for an immediate company size reinforcement aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS America (LHA-6), in the Philippine Sea, Jan. 28, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

The America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) – consisting of USS America (LHA-6), Amphibious Squadron 11, and USS Green Bay (LPD 20) – is underway in the Philippine Sea.

In the South China Sea

Sailors observe the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198) steam alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore on Thursday after a port visit and is now back in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Friday.

The Nimitz CSG deployed from the West Coast on Dec. 3 and chopped into U.S. 7th Fleet on Dec. 16.

Carrier Strike Group 11

Sailors observe from the fantail aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) as the ship gets underway from the Republic of Singapore on Jan. 25, 2023. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier

USS Nimitz (CVN-68), homeported in Bremerton, Wash.

Carrier Air Wing 17

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the “Mighty Shrikes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Nimitz and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Fighting Redcocks” of VFA-22 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Mighty Shrikes” of VFA-94 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Kestrels” of VFA-137 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Blue Diamonds” of VFA 146 – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Cougars” of VAQ-139 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Sun Kings” of VAW-116 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) – from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • The “Indians” of HSC-6 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Battle Cats” of HSM-73 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Ens. Dennis Krivida, from Kensington, Md., stands watch on the bridge of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) on Jan. 18, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 9

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) steams near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 9 is based in Everett, Wash., and is embarked on Nimitz.

  • USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108), homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Decatur (DDG-73), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
  • USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.

In Singapore

Marines with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) leave from an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) 362 (Rein.), 13th MEU, on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), Jan. 20, 2023 in the South China Sea. US Navy Photo

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are at Changi Naval Base in Singapore. USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, left Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 9 for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The ARG completed the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 in Colombo, Sri Lanka last week following eight days of in-person and at-sea exercises.

“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka took place in Colombo, at Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam, and in the Laccadive Sea, Jan. 19-26. The exercise focused on increasing proficiency in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), and maritime security capabilities,” reads a statement from the U.S. Navy.

Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) operated with USS Anchorage (LPD-23), with the embarked 13th MEU at sea. This year’s exercise included participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Maldives National Defense Force, as well as the Sri Lanka Air Force.

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Sri Lankan marines brief the route plan during a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise, Jan. 23, 2023 in Mullikulam. US Marine Corps Photo

“For the HADR training, two USN landing craft transferred troops, supplies, and vehicles ashore to a beach area of Mullikulam,” according to the statement.
“Additional exercises conducted at sea included divisional tactics, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), replenishment-at-sea approaches, and reconnaissance and gunnery exercises. Helicopters aboard Anchorage successfully carried out VBSS exercises, embarkation, and disembarkation of personnel and material on the decks of the SLN ships involved in the sea phase.”

The ARG includes Makin Island and amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23). During the deployment to the Western Pacific, the ARG has worked with other U.S. assets, including Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, P-8A Poseidon aircraft and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet and CTF 72, 73, 75, 76/3, Destroyer Squadron 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7. Task Force 76/3 recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of the Navy’s TF 76 and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The MEU includes the aviation combat element with the “Flying Leathernecks” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 flying F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and the “Ugly Angels” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 362 (Reinforced) flying MV-22B Ospreys; the logistics combat element made up of Combat Logistics Battalion 13; and the ground combat element with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines.

In the Adriatic Sea

Israeli Lt. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, chief of the general staff, Israeli Defense Force, during a press conference aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) during exercise Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 26, 2023. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is operating in the Adriatic Sea. Last week, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) participated in Juniper Oak, joint drills between Israel and the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) continues to operate in U.S. 5th Fleet.

Carrier Strike Group 10

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) during flight operations on Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 7

An E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, flies over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, based on Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) sails with the Israeli Navy during Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Destroyer Squadron

Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG-103) man the rails during a scheduled port visit to Haifa, Israel, Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 26 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Truxtun (DDG-103), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Farragut (DDG-99), homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
  • USS Nitze (DDG-94), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

In the Western Atlantic

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class James Heddings, from Kansas City, Missouri, conducts preflight safety checks on an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to the ‘Dusty Dogs’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7, on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). US Navy Photo

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) are underway in the Western Atlantic.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is in the Virginia Capes conducting flight operations after completing a 15-month maintenance period in December. The 45-year-old carrier completed back-to-back deployments on July 18, 2021.

Kearsarge returned home to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., after completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operation on Oct. 13.

Bataan is conducting deck landing qualifications.

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (VMM-162) Reinforced, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conducts deck landing qualifications aboard the Wasp-class Amphibious Assault Ship Class USS Bataan (LHD-5) during Amphibious Squadron/MEU Integrated Training, Jan. 27, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

In addition to these major formations, not shown are others serving in submarines, individual surface ships, aircraft squadrons, SEALs, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Seabees, Coast Guard cutters, EOD Mobile Units and more serving throughout the globe.

White House Nominates New Commanders for Pacific, Middle East Fleets

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and […]

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher (l), Rear Adm. George Wikoff (r)

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and to command U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the announcement. He would succeed the current 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas.

Rear Adm. George Wikoff, current vice director of the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a promotion to vice admiral and to lead U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He would follow the current U.S. 5th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

Kacher, a career surface warfare officer, has served on cruisers and destroyers and deployed to both the Atlantic and Pacific, according to his Navy bio. At sea, he commanded guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and served as the executive officer of USS Barry (DDG-52). He commanded Destroyer Squadron 7 based in Singapore and commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 7. Leading ESG-7, Kacher sailed on four patrols aboard amphibious warship USS America (LHA-6). During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, America was underway often in the Western Pacific while carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was pier side in Guam coping with a COVID-19 outbreak.
He is a 1990 graduate of the Naval Academy.

Wikoff is a career fighter pilot with experience flying F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18s. He has deployed aboard the former aircraft carriers USS America (CV-66), and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). He commanded the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadron 211 aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the “Flying Eagles” of the fleet replacement squadron VFA-122. He also commanded Carrier Air Wing 3 that was embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), according to his bio. Ashore his assignments include time as an instructor at Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (TOPGUN, battle director for the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as chief of staff in Bahrain, executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Staff as deputy director for operations.
He is a 1990 graduate of Catholic University.

The following is the complete Jan. 27, 2023, announcement from the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that the president has made the following nominations:

Navy Rear Adm. Fred Kacher for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, Seventh Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan. Kacher is currently serving as vice director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command; commander, Fifth Fleet; and commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Manama, Bahrain. Wikoff is currently serving as vice director, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

USS Nimitz Back in the South China Sea After Singapore Port Visit

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore on Thursday after a port visit and is now back in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Friday. The Nimitz CSG – including carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and destroyers USS Decatur (DDG-73), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) – arrived in Singapore at […]

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams through the South China Sea. Nimitz in U.S. 7th Fleet conducting routine operations on Jan. 13, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore on Thursday after a port visit and is now back in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Friday.

The Nimitz CSG – including carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and destroyers USS Decatur (DDG-73), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), and USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) – arrived in Singapore at Changi Naval Base on Saturday, a day before the Chinese New Year period, known as Spring Festival in China, began on Sunday. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) generally has a less intensive operational deployment during this time, similar to western navies during the Christmas holiday period.

Prior to its arrival in Singapore, the Nimitz CSG operated in the Philippine Sea and South China Sea, where it performed “maritime strike training, anti-submarine operations, integrated multi-domain and joint training between surface and air elements, and flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, according to a Navy news release. The Nimitz CSG deployed from the West Coast on Dec. 3 and chopped into U.S. 7th Fleet on Dec. 16. The two other ships that are part of the CSG, cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), are currently operating independently in the Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean, respectively, according to Pentagon photo releases.

Also in the South China Sea is USS Makin Island (LHD-8) and amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26), along with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, which also includes with USS Anchorage (LPD-23), left Naval Base San Diego, Calif., in November for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Anchorage wrapped up its participation in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 on Thursday, according to a Navy statement.

The exercise began on Jan. 19 in Colombo at two Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bases and also in the Laccadive Sea, according to a 7th Fleet news release.

“The exercise focused on increasing proficiency in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), and maritime security capabilities,” the release reads.

The U.S. Navy sent Anchorage and the 13th MEU embarked to the sea phase of the exercise, while the Sri Lanka Navy sent two offshore patrol vessels – SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627), according to 7th Fleet. Sri Lanka’s air force, the Japan Maritime-Self Defense Force, and the Maldives National Defense Force also joined for the drills.

“Additional exercises conducted at sea included divisional tactics, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), replenishment-at-sea approaches, and reconnaissance and gunnery exercises. Helicopters aboard Anchorage successfully carried out VBSS exercises, embarkation, and disembarkation of personnel and material on the decks of the SLN ships involved in the sea phase,” according to the 7th Fleet release.

JS Suzutsuki conducted a bilateral exercise with the French Navy Charles de Gaulle CSG in the vicinity of Western Arabian Sea. JMSDF Photo

Nearby in the Indian Ocean, the French Navy’s Charles De Gaulle CSG continues its deployment after wrapping up the Varuna joint exercise with the Indian Navy on Jan. 20. The Charles De Gaulle CSG currently includes carrier FS Charles De Gaulle (R91), destroyers FS Forbin (D620) and FS Provence (D652), and replenishment ship FS Marne (A360).

Meanwhile, on Friday the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force issued a news release announcing that “Iron Fist 23” will take place from Feb. 16 to March 12 between the JGSDF and the U.S. Marine Corps’ III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The drills will take place near the JGSDF Hijyudai Maneuver Area on Kyushu, Tokunoshima Island and Kikaijima Island, both part of the Amani Islands lying between Kyushu and Okinawa and Camp Hansen, Okinawa, while aviation units will largely stage out of JGSDF Camp Takayubaru on Kyushu. JGSDF forces taking part in the exercise will be the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB), 1st Airborne Brigade, and 1st Helicopter Brigade, along with the Western Army Aviation Unit. The U.S. Marine Corps’ 31st MEU will participate, while the U.S. Navy and JMSDF will participate with the America ARG – which features amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD-20), and dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48) – and LST JS Osumi (LST-4001), respectively.

According to the JGSDF news release, this Iron Fist is the first time the drills will take place with both III MEF and in the Western Pacific. The goal is to perform joint operations between Japan and the U.S.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) is about to begin a training exercise, according to a Marine Corps news release issued on Friday.

“This will be the eighth exercise the MLR has participated in since re-designating last year,” Col. Timothy Brady, the commanding officer of the 3rd MLR, said in the release. “We’ve progressed from wargaming Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations in a classroom to now conducting EABO at a service-level training exercise operating as a Stand-in Force under a Division headquarters. MLR-TE gives us a chance to train hard, refine tactics and procedures, and continue to rapidly develop this force of the future.”

The Marine Corps plans to take lessons learned from the training event and apply them to Balikatan 2023 in the Philippines in April, according to the release.

In the Philippine Sea, U.S Navy ships from commander, Task Force (CTF) 70 and commander, Task Force (CTF) 71 finished the Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) drills, according to a separate news release from 7th Fleet.

“Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan (FDNF-J) SWATT 2023 was the first multi-international iteration of the exercise with participation from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF),” the release reads.

CNS Yuhengxing (798) Japanese MoD photo

For the U.S. Navy, cruisers USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), USS Antietam (CG-54) and USS Shiloh (CG-67), destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) and replenishment ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) participated in the exercise, while destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG-178) joined for the JMSDF. From Jan. 15 through Jan. 23, Ashigara conducted tactical exercises with those U.S. ships and replenishment ship USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) from south of Kanto, near Okinawa, south of Shikoku Island, according to a news release the JMSDF issued Monday. A Friday JMSDF release said replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) conducted a replenishment exercise with Antietam on Thursday near Okinawa.

Also on Thursday, a Chinese Dongdiao-class surveillance vessel was sighted at 10 a.m. local time that day sailing northwest in an area 150 kilometers east of Miyako Island, the Joint Staff Office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense said in a news release. The hull number and image in the release identified the ship as CNS Yuhengxing (798) and the ship subsequently sailed northwest through the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea. The release noted that the PLAN ship had transited southeast through the Miyako Strait on Jan. 19, and that minesweeper JS Shishijima (MSC-691) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa monitored.

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the Jan. 24, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Hypersonic Missile Defense: Issues for Congress. From the report The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) are currently developing elements of a hypersonic missile defense system to defend against hypersonic weapons and other emerging missile threats. These elements include […]

The following is the Jan. 24, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Hypersonic Missile Defense: Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Space Development Agency (SDA) are currently developing elements of a hypersonic missile defense system to defend against hypersonic weapons and other emerging missile threats. These elements include the tracking and transport layers of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) and various interceptor programs. As MDA and SDA continue to develop these systems, Congress may consider implications for oversight and defense authorizations and appropriations.

Background

Hypersonic weapons, like ballistic missiles, fly at speeds of at least Mach 5, or roughly 1 mile per second. Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can maneuver en route to their target. Russia reportedly fielded its first hypersonic weapons in December 2019, while some experts believe that China fielded hypersonic weapons as early as 2020. The United States is not expected to field hypersonic weapons before 2023. (For an overview of hypersonic weapons programs in Russia, China, and the United States, see CRS Report R45811, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress, by Kelley M. Sayler.)

The maneuverability and low flight altitude of hypersonic weapons could challenge existing detection and defense systems. For example, most terrestrial-based radars cannot detect hypersonic weapons until late in the weapon’s flight due to line-of-sight limitations of radar detection. This leaves minimal time for a defender to launch interceptors that could neutralize an inbound weapon. Figure 1 depicts the differences in terrestrial-based radar detection timelines for ballistic missiles versus hypersonic weapons.

U.S. defense officials have stated that both existing terrestrial- and space-based sensor architectures are insufficient to detect and track hypersonic weapons; former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin has noted that “hypersonic targets are 10 to 20 times dimmer than what the U.S. normally tracks by satellites in geostationary orbit.”

Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture

SDA developed the PWSA, formerly known as the National Defense Space Architecture, to “unify and integrate next generation capabilities across [the Department of Defense (DOD)] and industry.” The PWSA aims to be a “single, coherent proliferated space architecture with seven layers,” which include the data tracking and transport layers depicted in Figure 2 and discussed below. Other layers include the custody layer to support the targeting of mobile ground assets; the battle management layer to provide space-based command and control; the navigation layer to provide “alternate positioning, navigation, and timing for potential GPS-denied environments”; the deterrence layer to detect potentially hostile actions in deep space; and the support layer to facilitate satellite operations for the other PWSA layers. Once fully fielded, the PWSA is to include 550 satellites and provide full global coverage.

Tracking Layer

The tracking layer is to “provide global indications, warning, tracking, and targeting of advanced missile threats, including hypersonic missile systems.” As part of this layer, SDA is developing an architecture of Wide Field of View (WFOV) satellites, which are to eventually provide global coverage. SDA requested $81.3 million for Tranche 0 tracking activities in FY2023 and $499.8 million for Tranche 1 tracking activities (also known as Resilient Missile Warning Missile Tracking – Low Earth Orbit).

Working in tandem with the SDA’s tracking satellites will be the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS), previously known as the Space Sensor Layer, which is being developed by MDA in collaboration with SDA and the U.S. Space Force. HBTSS is to provide more sensitive, but more limited (or Medium Field of View [MFOV]) coverage, compared to WFOV. For this reason, WFOV is intended to provide cueing data to HBTSS, which could then provide more specific, target quality data to a ground-based interceptor. MDA requested $89.2 million for HBTSS in FY2023.

Download the document here.

F-35s, Super Hornets and Growlers to Perform Super Bowl LVIII Flyover

Before the 2022 football season comes to an end in February when the Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers or Eagles will hoist the Vice Lombardi trophy, the Super Bowl will have to wait for the Super Hornets. To celebrate the anniversary of the first female naval aviators in the U.S. Navy, the NFL has invited naval aviators […]

Before the 2022 football season comes to an end in February when the Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers or Eagles will hoist the Vice Lombardi trophy, the Super Bowl will have to wait for the Super Hornets.

To celebrate the anniversary of the first female naval aviators in the U.S. Navy, the NFL has invited naval aviators to overfly the field during the country music star Chris Stapleton’s rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of kickoff, the league announced this week.

“To commemorate 50 years of women flying in the U.S. Navy, the service will conduct a flyover of State Farm Stadium during the national anthem with female aviators as part of the formation,” according to the NFL release.

The flyover will include F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, EA-18G Growlers from the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 and F/A-18F Super Hornets from the “Flying Eagles” of VFA-122, according to a statement from the league.

The Navy released digital trading cards Thursday for the 15 service members involved in the flyover. They include Lt. Lyndsay “Miley” Evans, Lt. Lenue “Loo” Gilchrist III, Lt. Slawomir “GP” Glownia, Lt. Gregory “Benz” Oh, of the “Vikings,” Lt. Kathryn Martinez, Lt. Garrett Sherwood, Lt. Cmdr. Ben Piazza, Lt. Ryan Baptiste, Lt. Michael Thorsen, Capt. William Frank and Lt. Saree Moreno, from the “Flying Eagles” and Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Armenteros, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Calbretta, Lt. Chris McNulty and Lt. Ryan “Mr. Hong” Turner, from the “Argonauts.”

Naval Aviators set to perform a flyover for the Super Bowl.

 

The Navy selected eight women in 1973 to train as the first female aviators in the service, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Lt. Barbara Allen was the first woman to receive her wings as a naval aviator.

In February 2019, the Navy flew a four-plane formation with all female pilots in honor of Capt. Rosemary Mariner, the first female jet pilot in the Navy, USNI News reported at the time.

Mariner was also among the class of eight women selected in 1973. Both Allen and Mariner earned their wings in 1974.

 

Report to Congress on North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons and Missile Programs

The following is the Jan. 23, 2023 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons and Missile Programs. From the report Overview North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and high-level diplomatic efforts. Recent ballistic missile tests and military parades suggest that North Korea […]

The following is the Jan. 23, 2023 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons and Missile Programs.

From the report

Overview

North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and high-level diplomatic efforts. Recent ballistic missile tests and military parades suggest that North Korea is continuing to build a nuclear warfighting capability designed to evade regional ballistic missile defenses. Such an approach likely reinforces a deterrence and coercive diplomacy strategy—lending more credibility as it demonstrates capability—but it also raises questions about crisis stability and escalation control. Congress may choose to examine U.S. policy in light of these advances.

According to the U.S. intelligence community’s 2022 annual threat assessment, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un views nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as “the ultimate guarantor of his totalitarian and autocratic rule of North Korea and believes that over time he will gain international acceptance as a nuclear power.”

United States policy as well as United Nations resolutions call on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. In a September 9, 2022, speech to North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Jong Un rejected denuclearization talks and vowed the country would continue developing its “nuclear power.” The Assembly adopted a new law that reportedly expands the conditions under which North Korea would use nuclear weapons to include possible first use in situations that threaten the regime’s survival. The Biden Administration’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review said, “Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime.”

Nuclear Testing

North Korea has tested a nuclear explosive device six times since 2006. Each test produced underground blasts progressively higher in magnitude and estimated yield. North Korea conducted its most recent test on September 3, 2017. A North Korean press release stated it had tested a hydrogen bomb (or two-stage thermonuclear warhead) that it was perfecting for delivery on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In April 2018, North Korea announced that it had achieved its goals, would no longer conduct nuclear tests, and would close down its Punggye-ri nuclear test site. It dynamited the entrances to two test tunnels in May 2018 prior to the first Trump-Kim summit. In an October 2018 meeting with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Kim Jong-un “invited inspectors to visit the [test site] to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled,” but this did not occur. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports say North Korea began restoring test tunnels in March 2022.

Nuclear Material Production

North Korea reportedly continues to produce fissile material (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for weapons. North Korea restarted its plutonium production facilities after it withdrew from a nuclear agreement in 2009, and is operating centrifuge uranium enrichment plants at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and possibly at Kangson. A March 2022 IAEA report says that there were no indications of operations at its Radiochemical Laboratory (reprocessing) plant since its last reprocessing campaign from February to July 2021. The IAEA notes ongoing operation of the Yongbyon Experimental Light Water 5MW(e) Reactor since July 2021. Spent fuel from that reactor is reprocessed at the Radiochemical Laboratory to extract plutonium for weapons. In September 2022, the IAEA reported ongoing uranium mining, milling, and concentration activities at Pyongsan. Fissile material production in large part determines the number and type of nuclear warheads a country is able to build.

Nuclear Warheads

Outside experts estimate that North Korea has produced enough fissile material for between 20 to 60 warheads. A 2021 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report says that North Korea “retains a stockpile of nuclear weapons.” Another goal of a nuclear weapons program is to lower the size and weight of a nuclear warhead for deployment on missiles. A July 2017 DIA assessment and some outside observers asserted North Korea had achieved the level of miniaturization required to fit a nuclear device on weapons ranging from short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Kim Jong-un in January 2021 said that the country was able to “miniaturize, lighten and standardize nuclear weapons and to make them tactical ones.”

Missile Development

North Korea conducted an unprecedented 63 ballistic missile test launches in 2022 according to U.S. government officials. U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions prohibit North Korea’s development of the means of delivering conventional and nuclear payloads, in addition to the nuclear weapons themselves. UNSC resolutions specifically ban “all ballistic missile tests” by North Korea. A ballistic missile is a projectile powered by a rocket engine until it reaches the apogee of its trajectory, at which point it falls back to earth using earth’s gravity. Ballistic missiles can deliver nuclear and large conventional payloads at high speed and over great distances. They are categorized as short-range, medium-range, or long-range (intercontinental) based on the distance from the launch site to the target.

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Carrier USS George H. W. Bush in Eastern Mediterranean in Joint U.S.-Israel Exercise Juniper Oak

Aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) is participating in the Juniper Oak, joint drills between Israel and the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. The exercise kicked off on Sunday and will include assets from across the U.S. military branches, U.S. Central Command said in a news release this week. “This exercise […]

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group sails in formation with the Israeli Navy during exercise Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 24, 2023 in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) is participating in the Juniper Oak, joint drills between Israel and the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The exercise kicked off on Sunday and will include assets from across the U.S. military branches, U.S. Central Command said in a news release this week.

“This exercise will include a large-scale live fire event with over 140 aircraft including B-52s, F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, AC-130, AH64s, 12 naval vessels, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems,” reads the CENTCOM release.

CENTCOM is billing the exercise as the largest bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Israel ever.

A Tuesday Defense Department image showed the George H. W. Bush carrier strike group operating in the Eastern Mediterranean for the exercise.

“Juniper Oak is a Combined Joint All-Domain exercise which improves our interoperability on land, in the air, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace with our partners, enhances our ability to respond to contingencies, and underscores our commitment to the Middle East,” CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Michael Kurilla said in the release.

Bush has been operating throughout the Mediterranean since August when it relieved the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. For the last five months, the Bush CSG has remained in the Mediterranean amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Since December 2021, there has been a continued U.S. carrier presence in the Mediterranean. The last carrier to operate in the Middle East was the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in conjunction with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Marines Buy 2 XQ-58A Valkyrie Drones for ‘Collaborative Killer’ Concept Testing

The Marine Corps used a new Pentagon program designed to quickly prototype systems for conflict in the Pacific to buy two unmanned aerial vehicles last month for $15.5 million, a service official told USNI News on Tuesday. The contract to Kratos for the pair of XQ-58A Valkyrie “loyal wingman” drones was bought through the Naval Air […]

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built by Kratos. US Air Force Photo

The Marine Corps used a new Pentagon program designed to quickly prototype systems for conflict in the Pacific to buy two unmanned aerial vehicles last month for $15.5 million, a service official told USNI News on Tuesday.

The contract to Kratos for the pair of XQ-58A Valkyrie “loyal wingman” drones was bought through the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division under the Department of Defense Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) and wasn’t part of the Navy’s ongoing Next Generation Air Dominance program, Marine Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News.

“This purchase is part of ongoing USMC efforts to look at future autonomous collaborative platforms and is not tied to the Next Generation Air Dominance Program, or any other Air Force or Navy programs. The base contract was awarded primarily for the baseline aircraft—a decision for future modifications and operations has not been made as these aircraft are for experimental use,” he said.
“This project officially started with the award of the base contract and will develop into experimentation in [Fiscal Year] 24.”

The Pentagon awarded the contract on Dec. 30, and the initial announcement did not say the purchase was for the Marine RDER effort. Naval Air Systems Command did not respond to a request for comment when asked by USNI News in December. Breaking Defense first reported the contract’s connection to the Marines on Monday.

The UASs should have “sensor and weapon system payloads to accomplish the penetrating affordable autonomous collaborative killer” mission, according to the DoD announcement.

The two drones are part of the RDER experimentation program that allows services to military items to quickly test concepts with systems already in use in other arenas with an emphasis on the needs of commands in the Indo-Pacific.

2018 Kratos data sheet on the XQ-58 UAVs

“RDER is really a whole of [Defense Department] effort that’s focused on the exploitation of advanced technologies in order to provide capabilities that address some of our most pressing or difficult military challenges,” Air Force Col. Corey Beaverson said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Future Force 2022 conference in September, reported National Defense Magazine.
“The focus is going to be on long-range kill chains, long-range fires, command and control capabilities: how do we operate in a contested logistics environment? How do we defend forward fixed bases?”

The Valkyries were developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to be a high-speed, low-cost aircraft developed for the AFRL’s Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) project.

“The LCAAT portfolio was established to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft and provide an unmanned escort or wingman aircraft alongside a crewed fighter aircraft in combat,” according to Kratos.

The XQ-58As can operate without a runway and carry a variety of payloads from weapons to communication relays at a range of about 3,000 nautical miles with a cruising speed of about 550 miles per hour, according to a 2018 datasheet from Kratos. In addition to launching from land, Kratos developed a version of the UAV that can be moved in a standard shipping container.

Both the Air Force and Marines are developing expeditionary aviation concepts for their respective services. The Air Force is refining its Agile Combat Employment – a concept that disperses combat air power across several expeditionary bases. The Marines have also experimented with the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) that will be key to how it says it will fight in the island campaigns in modern conflict. The Marines have tested assembling remote airfields to support F-35s in austere locations.

The Marines are also experimenting with other unmanned vehicles like the MQ-9 Reaper UAV, unmanned ground vehicles and is developing its own large, unmanned surface vessel program.

Report to Congress on Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation

The following is the Jan. 23, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation. From the report The U.S. government has continued to express concerns about China’s record concerning the proliferation of nuclear- and missile-related technologies to other countries, with more recent focus on the threat of Chinese acquisition of U.S.-origin […]

The following is the Jan. 23, 2023, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation.

From the report

The U.S. government has continued to express concerns about China’s record concerning the proliferation of nuclear- and missile-related technologies to other countries, with more recent focus on the threat of Chinese acquisition of U.S.-origin nuclear technology. (See CRS In Focus IF11050, New U.S. Policy Regarding Nuclear Exports to China, by Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth D. Nikitin.) Official U.S. government reports indicate that the Chinese government has apparently ended its direct involvement in the transfer of nuclear- and missile-related items, but Chinese-based companies and individuals continue to export goods relevant to those items, particularly to Iran and North Korea. U.S. officials have also raised concerns about entities operating in China that provide other forms of support for proliferation-sensitive activities, such as illicit finance and money laundering.

Background

China did not oppose new states’ acquisition of nuclear weapons during the 1960s and 1970s, the Department of State wrote in a declassified January 1998 report to Congress. According to a 1983 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), China had exported “nuclear materials since 1981” that were not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Beijing did so “mainly to earn hard currency,” the estimate assesses, explaining that the

Chinese became aware in 1979 that they had insufficient resources for their initially grandiose modernization program and that they needed to generate more revenue through expanded foreign trade. Accordingly, the State Council directed its subordinate ministries in late 1979 to begin selling surpluses.

Consequently, according to the NIE, Beijing ended its “abstention from commercial trade in conventional arms and nuclear materials.” During the 1980s and 1990s, China transferred nuclear and missile technology to other countries’ weapons programs. China provided assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran. Beijing exported missiles to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. (For more information, see CRS Report RL33192, U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, by Mark Holt, Mary Beth D. Nikitin, and Paul K. Kerr.)

According to U.S. government reports and official statements, China significantly curtailed its nuclear- and missile-related transfers during the 1990s; Beijing also committed to improving its export controls. For example, the 1998 State Department report cited above noted China’s 1996 pledge to refrain from assisting unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and 1997 changes to Chinese nuclear export policy, as well as other Chinese nonproliferation efforts.

The United States has extensive nuclear cooperation with China, which is governed by a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, renewed in 2015. (See CRS Report RL33192, U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.)

The above-described changes in Chinese behavior took place after the two governments concluded their first nuclear cooperation agreement in 1985. Laws subsequently adopted by Congress required, as a condition for U.S. implementation of the agreement, the President to submit to Congress certain nonproliferation-related certifications, as well as a report about Beijing’s “nonproliferation policies and practices.” President William Clinton stated in a January 1998 letter to Congress that China had “made substantial strides in joining the international nonproliferation regime, and in putting in place a comprehensive system of nuclear-related, nationwide export controls,” since concluding the 1985 agreement.

Beijing acceded in 1992 to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) and has voluntary IAEA safeguards on its civil reactors. The treaty defines NWS as those that exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All other NPT states-parties are nonnuclear-weapon states. According to the treaty, a NWS is not to transfer nuclear weapons to “any recipient whatsoever” or to “in any way … assist, encourage, or induce any” nonnuclear-weapon state “to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.”

China is also a participant in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—a multilateral control regime for nuclear-related exports. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) performs an analogous function for missiles and related items. China is not an MTCR partner but has agreed to adhere to the regime’s export guidelines.

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