defenseDefense Watch  


CONGRESS: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill that would provide $549.3 billion for the Defense Department, including weapons spending that was not requested by the Pentagon, including: $1.3 billion for EA-18G Growlers, $338 million to keep the Air Force's A-10 Warthogs flying, and $848 million to begin planning the refueling of the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier. However, senior committee members made it clear the bill may never see the Senate floor due to procedural disputes. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, however, has instructed his staff to begin preliminary discussions with their House counterparts in preparation for the day when the SASC's authorization bill is taken up by the full Senate.


F-35: Although the Pentagon has lifted some flight restrictions on the F-35, inspections continue after an engine fire led to a temporary grounding of the fleet. That grounding led to the F-35's absence from the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air show, which despite producing a public relations nightmare, is not expected to derail the program given its support in Congress and recent statements by the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Air Force Chief of Staff reiterating their support of the aircraft. Yet a recent Pentagon review found that software for the F-35 may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, increasingly sophisticated radar in China and Russia may soon be able to pierce the F-35's stealth armor, and Canada and other countries have expressed concerns about the high costs of the F-35 program.


DEFENSE REVIEWS: The congressionally mandated bipartisan National Defense Panel (NDP)'s review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review was released in August. The NDP concluded the military should not discard its policy of preparing to fight two regional wars simultaneously, said the U.S. military faces "high risk" unless changes are made, and endorsed cost-cutting measures such as base closures and compensation reform as means to increase funding needed for fulfilling global military missions. Separately, an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the American Enterprise Institute urges Congress to rein in the military's personnel costs in order to avoid having to shrink the armed forces or cut other essential portions of the defense budget to meet the spending caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011.


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waronterrorWar on Terror 


ISIS GROWING: U.S. intelligence agencies have begun to see groups of fighters abandoning al-Qa'ida affiliates in Yemen and Africa to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Thousands of new fighters joined ISIS in Syria last month, including a surge in the number of Westerners traveling to Iraq and Syria. The U.S. government is tracking and gathering intelligence on as many as 300 Americans fighting with ISIS. Meanwhile, ISIS is pushing to establish cells outside Iraq and Syria, including in Europe, and al Qa'ida's affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group, creating the potential for a new operational alliance against the United States. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told the Aspen Security Forum that the Administration is taking "the long view" toward ISIS, which cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the terror network in Syria.


TERRORISM FINANCING: U.S. and other Western officials say kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become the main source of funding for al-Qa'ida-affiliated groups. The U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism estimates that $120 million in ransom flowed to such groups from 2004 to 2012, with Yemen's al-Qa'ida branch collecting at least $20 million since then. The New York Times found that al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid in just the last year.


NEW SANCTIONS: The Treasury Department sanctioned three Kuwait-based financiers for allegedly funding extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The House of Representatives passed legislation last month to impose further sanctions on Hezbollah's foreign assets. Congress is drafting legislation that would officially designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and impose sanctions on any person who provides the group and its affiliates with "material support."


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iraqIraq Watch 


OPERATIONS AND BOOTS ON THE GROUND: Less than a month after the Obama administration urged Congress to fully repeal the war authorization in Iraq to ensure that no U.S. troops return to the country, the Pentagon said last week there are now almost 1,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command announced that U.S. fighters, surveillance, supply and refueling aircraft have flown more than 1,500 sorties over Iraq since the President authorized air strikes on August 8. U.S. forces have conducted targeted airstrikes in northern Iraq to halt ISIS gains, and to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. The U.S. has also delivered 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water to refugees fleeing ISIS.


WEAPONS DELIVERED: The State Department approved plans to send an additional 5,000 Hellfire missiles to the Iraqi government. The Administration is also now providing weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq, reversing a long-standing policy of only selling arms to the central government in Baghdad. U.S. helicopters and MV-22 Ospreys are on the ground in northern Iraq operating from a secure airfield protected by Kurdish forces.


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syriaSyria Watch 


ISIS GAINS: ISIS forces captured a Syrian airbase last weekend, routing the remaining elements of the Assad regime from northern Raqqa province and reportedly seizing a cashe of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Earlier, the U.S. counterterrorism chief said Syria is now the "predominant battleground for extremists" plotting to attack the United States, as the number of foreign fighters has now exceeded 12,000.


TRAINING AND EQUIPPING: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve the Obama administration's request for $500 million in funding to train and equip "vetted" Syrian rebels. However, the Pentagon's plan will only train a 2,300-man force over an extended period rather than provide quick support to moderates fighting both the Assad regime and jihadists, causing concern amongst even supporters of the measure.  


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irangulfIran and Gulf Watch 

IRAN: Although the United Nations nuclear watchdog expressed concern about Iran's lack of engagement with an investigation into its suspected atomic bomb research, Iran and the P5+1 nations agreed to a four-month extension of the negotiations on the future of the Iranian nuclear program. Meanwhile, amidst fresh evidence that Iran has resumed its support for Hamas, the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel a "rabid dog" for its operations in Gaza and urged Muslims to arm Palestinians to enable them to counter what he termed a genocide.


MISSILE DEFENSE: Iranian military leaders announced that Tehran is readying new mid-range and long-range missile defense systems reminiscent of Israel's Iron Dome system. Additionally, Raytheon announced it is aiming to sign a deal worth $2 billion with Qatar by the end of the year for the supply of Patriot missile defense systems.



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usisraelU.S.-Israel Cooperation 


OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE: Both the Senate and the House passed resolutions condemning Hamas's rocket attacks and supporting Israel's right to defend itself. Additionally, before leaving for August recess, Congress passed an emergency appropriations bill providing $225 million in additional funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system. President Obama subsequently signed the bill into law. However, the State Department said the United States was "appalled" by "disgraceful" shelling near a United Nations school, and after the Defense Department allowed Israel to tap a local U.S. arms stockpile to resupply it with grenades and mortar rounds, the Administration stepped in to hold up arms shipments to Israel for further review.


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mealliesMiddle East Allies 


LEBANON: ISIS seized the Lebanese border town of Arsal, killing ten Lebanese soldiers and capturing more than a dozen others. After days of intense fighting between ISIS and the Lebanese Army, Saudi Arabia offered an additional $1 billion in military aid to the Lebanese government, and the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon said the United States will soon deliver additional weaponry to bolster the Lebanese military.


TURKEY: Turkey declared three days of mourning for the dead in Gaza, while Prime Minister Erdogan donned a Palestinian scarf in parliament as a sign of solidarity. A letter released by his office subsequently said Erdogan would be glad to return an award given to him by a Jewish-American association a decade ago. Meanwhile, just hours after news emerged that Ankara is hosting a senior Hamas operative who planned to violently overthrow the Palestinian government in the West Bank and wage war on Israel, the U.S. State Department defended missile sales to Turkey.


JORDAN: Jordan's air force shot down an "aerial target" near the Syrian border, which eyewitnesses said was a drone.


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nawatchNorth Africa Watch 


LIBYA: In response to escalating violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the United States closed its embassy in Libya last month and evacuated the embassy's staff under military guard. Meanwhile, last week Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli.


TUNISIA: The commander of Tunisia's army land forces resigned as the military struggles to contain attacks by al-Qa'ida-linked militants. The United States subsequently said announced it will give Tunisia $60 million worth of military aid - including a dozen advanced attack helicopters - to help it fight Islamist militants.


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techTechnology Watch 


CYBER: A senior Justice Department official said that al-Qa'ida, nation states, and criminals are preparing for major cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure that could be comparable to the September 11 attacks, and outgoing Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, LTG Michael Flynn, called the threat of cyberattacks against U.S. infrastructure a major strategic vulnerability. Meanwhile, U.S.-based computer security experts revealed that in 2011 three Israeli defense contractors behind the Iron Dome missile shield were robbed of hundreds of documents by hackers linked to the Chinese government.


INTELLIGENCE: The Army withdrew its embattled Distributed Common Ground System intelligence network from a major testing exercise this fall because of software glitches. The Army subsequently announced that it plans to hold a competition to develop the next iteration of DCGS-A to address "well-publicized soldier concerns regarding the existing DCGS-A system's 'ease of use' in the field."


NAVY UCLASS: In an historic first, an unmanned drone and a manned fighter jet took off and landed alongside each other on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. But the Navy's carrier-based drone program's requirements came under fire at a preliminary Defense Acquisition Board meeting, and a USNI News report claimed that the Navy's requirements for its Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) were "reduced to protect the role of the service's next-generation of manned fighters." 


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Security Digest newsletter is a monthly bulletin covering U.S.-Israel security cooperation and much more. Distributed by e-mail, Security Digest is compiled by Benjamin Runkle. Look for Security Digest every month in your e-mail inbox. To give us feedback, simply reply to this email.
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