MORNING RECON: Failing Missile Defense Programs; “Buy American" Threatens Our NATO Alliances; The U.S., Libya, and the Tangled Web We Weave; SOFWERX

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Morning Recon

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to MORNING RECON.  On this day in 1943, the Memphis Belle, one of a group of American bombers based in Britain, becomes the first B-17 to complete 25 missions over Europe. The Memphis Belle performed its 25th and last mission, in a bombing raid against Lorient, a German submarine base. 

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Today’s Top Stories

NATIONAL Trump’s Troubling Increases to Obama’s Wars
By Paul D. Shinkman, U.S. News & World Report: “The Defense Department is quietly scrambling to define a little-known term coined by the Obama administration that conveys vast authority over how and where it can fight wars, fearing that existing ambiguities could make military commanders less accountable and more liable under the administration of President Donald Trump." Trump and South Korea in Harmony – for Now
By Leon V. Sigal, 38 North: “Pundits who are predicting discord over North Korea policy with the newly elected Moon Jae-in government may be in for a surprise. Seoul and Washington seem to be singing from the same hymnal at the moment. While there are ample grounds for skepticism, the United States, South Korea and Japan may all be acting in concert to inch toward dialogue with Pyongyang—one of those rare moments when progress may be possible."

McCain: Trump Scandal Has Hit “Watergate Size"
By Tim Mak, The Daily Beast: “Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, responding to multiple reports that President Trump asked former FBI director James Comey to halt the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn, said Tuesday evening that Trump’s various scandals had reached a “Watergate size and scale."

The President, the Pentagon, and the People
By Sean R. Liedman & Daniel Dolan, U.S. Naval Institue’s Proceedings Magazine: “Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “Its dominant tendencies always make war a paradoxical trinity, composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity. . . .The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people; the second the commander and his army; the third the government." Clausewitz further wrote that to be effective, a nation must “maintain a balance between these three tendencies like an object suspended between three magnets." Examining the preparedness of the United States government, military, and people in ascending order of strength and importance is instructive."

Congress and the Administration Must Reassess Failing Missile Defense Programs
By Gregory T. Kiley, RealClearDefense: “In the defense world, every four to eight years both industry and their Pentagon overseers have the opportunity to reevaluate major defense programs and oversight processes. The U.S. Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Battle Command System (IBCS) is one such candidate program that also points to broken processes. While the goals of the program are laudable and important to the warfighter, in development, execution, and oversight, the Department of Defense might be best served by hitting the pause button, culling some well-needed lessons learned, and resetting."

By Jen Judson, Defense News: “U.S. Special Operations Command is launching a new effort to tackle drone and robotics technology hurdles rapidly, the same way it experiments with other capability problem sets through its SOFWERX model."

“Performance Enhancing Drugs" Considered for Special Operations Soldiers
By David B. Larter, Defense News: “Special Operations Command wants to create super-soldiers through pushing the limits of human performance, and its looking to nutritional supplements and even performance enhancing drugs as options."

Army’s Future M4 Carbine Technologies
From Scout Warrior: “The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said."

Future Air Force One Will Be a Boeing 747-8
By Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics: “The two jumbo jets designated specifically for presidential transport have now been in service for more than a quarter century. Although these two modified Boeing 747-200Bs, known as VC-25s, are a couple of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world, with encrypted communications and electromagnetic pulse defenses, they are aging. It’s time to start working on the replacement jets for Air Force One."

L3 WESCAM Launches MatriX ISR Kits
From Seapower Magazine: “L3 WESCAM announced May 16 the launch of its MatriX ISR system solutions kits for fixed- and rotary-wing platforms. L3’s MatriX kits combine a series of best-in-class commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies that provide an advanced level of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission capabilities in airborne platforms that have traditionally conducted missions without them."

U.S. SOF, USMC Want New Long-Range Machine Gun
By Joseph Trevithick, War Zone: “While the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun and its derivatives continue to deadly weapons despite a basic design that’s nearly a century old, few would argue that at it could do with shedding a little weight. Unfortunately, lightweight versions and alternatives have almost universally turned out to be poor substitutes. So, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Marine Corps are looking to go in a different direction and potentially buy a weapon that sits somewhere between the iconic “Ma Deuce" and lighter 7.62mm machine guns."

The Army Just Announced 2 Big Uniform Changes
By Jared Keller, Task & Purpose: “The U.S. Army has authorized two new uniform changes for both male and female soldiers effective immediately, according to separate memos issued by Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. James McConville."

Boeing’s T-X – Spirit of St. Louis Reborn?
By Loren Thompson, Forbes: “The Boeing Company disclosed Monday that if it wins the competition to build a next-generation training aircraft for the Air Force, the plane will be assembled at its sprawling manufacturing complex by the St. Louis airport. That would be a significant boost for a local economy that hasn’t gotten much good news lately."

INTERNATIONAL U.S., ASIA-PACIFIC: 2nd U.S. Navy Supercarrier Deploys in the Pacific
By Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat: “The U.S. Navy nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has departed Yokosuka naval base in Japan on May 16 to resume operations in the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. Navy said in a May 16 press statement."

U.S., SYRIA: New Marine Artillery Unit Arrives in Syria Ahead of Raqqa Offensive
By Jeff Schogol, Marine Corps Times: “A new Marine Corps artillery unit is supporting friendly forces in Syria that are isolating Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, said Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command."


“Buy American" Threatens Our NATO Alliances
By Geoff Davis, RealClearDefense: “President Trump’s “Buy American" proposal threatens the critical relationships we have with our allies, especially the other members of NATO. The alliance we have with the other 27 member-countries is built around tactical, logistical and developmental relationships. We have built those relationships, in part, through the exchange of technologies and tools that keep all of our military and intelligence services at the cutting-edge. These intricate networks help lower costs and make operations seamless."

NATO Isn’t “Obsolete" — But It’s Not Ready
By F.G. Hoffman, USNI Proceedings Magazine: “Then-President-elect Donald Trump startled U.S. alliance partners in Europe when he described NATO as “obsolete." He really unnerved them by suggesting future U.S. commitments to defend members of that alliance might be conditional, depending on whether they had met their obligations to adequately fund their own defenses."

The United States, Libya, and the Tangled Web We Weave
By S.M. Carlson, RealClearDefense: “The Trump Administration may not believe the United States has a role to play in Libya outside of defeating the Islamic State, as Trump stated on 20 April, but history demonstrates Libya is critically important to our national security. Libya’s importance lies in its strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea, historical influence in foreign affairs, and breeding ground for terrorism."

2017 Fragile States Index: Insight Beyond the Headlines
By John McLaughlin, The Cipher Brief: " . . . the United States and the United Kingdom among the countries whose scores have worsened in the last year, despite positive scores on many of the measures This is largely a reflection of harsh political campaigns, an uptick in factionalized politics, and the growing number of disaffected groups. This doesn’t mean that either country is about to collapse of course — in fact, both are judged very stable in the study — but it does underline that even prosperous veteran democracies can begin to develop political pathologies."

China’s Northern Theater Command
By Peter Wood, China Brief: “At the end of April, China’s Defense Ministry announced it would be conducting “live fire drills" near the border with North Korea. This followed weeks of rumors that the PLA was deploying in large numbers close to the Korean peninsula, which the MOD spokesperson subsequently denied (MOD, April 27). North Korean revelations of new missile types, several missile tests and histrionic response to U.S. deployment of THAAD missiles have all contributed to escalated tensions between China, the U.S. and both North and South Korea. Further emphasizing the gravity of the situation, U.S. President Donald Trump said that “we could end up in a major, major conflict." An examination of China’s Northern Theater Command, its military organization responsible for Northeast Asia, provides insight into China’s interests in this region, and particularly toward the Korean peninsula."

R-E-S-P-E-C-T . . . the PLA Navy
By James Fanell, USNI Proceedings Magazine: “Recent statements from a former and a current senior Navy official reminded me of the 1967 Aretha Franklin classic ballad “Respect" as it pertains to U.S. respect for the military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China. “

China’s Soft Power Offensive
By Joshua Kurlantzick, Council on Foreign Relations: “Why are China’s soft power efforts unlikely to succeed today? And they are unlikely to succeed: As the Economist notes, polling data collected by the Pew Research Center found that, in most of the nations studied, public images of China have become more negative in recent years. A recent study by the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies-Yusof Ishak Institute of Southeast Asian perceptions of the United States and China, found that the Trump administration was potentially undermining perception of U.S. power in Southeast Asia, and that China was perceived as becoming more influential regionally.

How America Turned a Blind Eye to China’s Growing Naval Power
By James Holmes, The National Interest: “Admirals say the darnedest things. Over at the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, retired U.S. Pacific Command Intelligence Chief Capt. Jim Fanell takes PACOM kahunas, past and present, to task for disparaging China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Respect for prospective foes, proclaims Captain Fanell, constitutes the most prudent attitude."

Missile Defense 101: N. Korea Could Hit With Little Warning
By Eric Talmadge, AP: “The scenario has become pretty familiar by now. Sometime in the early morning, a missile roars off its launcher in North Korea and flies off — to a splash zone somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. But what if Pyongyang wasn’t just testing its hardware or drilling its troops? How long would it take to hit its real-world, primary targets?"

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