Why the Gray Eagle still hasn't landed in Ukraine – POLITICO

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The Gray Eagle, manufactured by General Atomics, was built as an upgrade to the MQ-1 Predator and can fly for over 27 hours, travel 2,500 nautical miles and can carry Hellfire missiles. | AP
With help from Lawrence Ukenye, Christopher Miller, Nahal Toosi, Connor O’Brien and Andrew Desiderio
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The Ukrainians want it. The Americans are working to give it. But the decision to send a powerful unmanned drone to Kyiv’s forces is delayed over a nagging fear: What happens if the sensitive technologies aboard the aircraft end up in Russia’s hands?
A small but important Pentagon office is reviewing a Raytheon Technologies-made electro-optical/infrared ball on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. The technology, known as the Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MSTS), provides real-time intelligence, targeting and tracking to its operators. The Biden administration initially worried that the drone and the instruments it carries would pose too many training and logistics challenges for the Ukrainian military.
But the biggest concern now, per three people familiar with the discussions, is that Russia could capture one or more of the drones and steal the technologies. There’s also fear that the platform itself isn’t “survivable” in Ukraine’s grueling war, namely due to Russia’s air defenses and the number of missiles and rockets streaking across Ukrainian skies.
The Gray Eagle, manufactured by General Atomics, was built as an upgrade to the MQ-1 Predator and can fly for over 27 hours, travel 2,500 nautical miles and can carry Hellfire missiles. The drone has been used in U.S. operations in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
The Defense Technology Security Administration, a Pentagon office charged with ensuring U.S. national security needs are met during international weapons transfers, is currently assessing the risks of sending MSTS-equipped Gray Eagle drones to Ukraine. A senior U.S. defense official said it’s not a guarantee that the office will give the green light, and no recommendation has yet reached the desks of senior leaders in the Pentagon.
The final decision on whether it’s wise to send Gray Eagles to Ukraine falls to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but he’s not expected to weigh in for many more weeks, three of the people said.
Read your host and LEE HUDSON’s full story here.

EXPLOSIONS ROCK CRIMEA: A series of massive explosions at a Russian military airbase rocked Ukraine’s annexed Crimean peninsula today, sending huge mushroom clouds of black smoke into the sky and scattering beachgoers, our own CHRISTOPHER MILLER writes in from Kyiv.
Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed the blasts at the Saki airfield near the town of Novofedorivka and claimed they were an accident caused by aviation ammunition detonating at the base, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. The Moscow-appointed head of Crimea, SERGEY AKSYONOV, wrote on Telegram that one person had been killed, while the Crimean Ministry of Health said five people, including a child, were injured by the blasts, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
Ukraine was coy in its response to the blasts. One Ukrainian government official said that Kyiv “does not recognize any actions on the territory of the Russian Federation, including Crimea.” The New York Times cited a senior military official as saying Kyiv was behind the blasts.
In a statement posted to Facebook, its Defense Ministry coyly denied responsibility and warned of the dangers of smoking around explosives.
“The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine cannot establish the cause of the fire, but once again reminds of the rules of fire safety and the prohibition of smoking in unspecified places,” the ministry wrote. It also said that Russia could use the explosion as part of an “information war” against Ukraine by planting evidence to blame the country for the blasts.
MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, an adviser to Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, tweeted the closest thing to an official confirmation: “Demilitarization of the Russian Federation — an integral part of global security ensuring. The future of the Crimea is to be a pearl of the Black Sea, a national park with unique nature and a world resort. Not a military base for terrorists. It is just the beginning.”
A successful strike against a military target far behind Russian lines, and especially on the Crimean Peninsula, a place of great significance to the Kremlin, would be deeply embarrassing for President VLADIMIR PUTIN and likely be viewed by Moscow as a major escalation.
Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied the many explosions that have occurred at weapons depots and other strategic military installations on Russia’s mainland and occupied Crimea.
The blasts in Crimea follow a drone attack last week on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the port city of Sevastopol. Russia claimed Ukraine was behind the attack, but Kyiv denied responsibility.
WAR GAME: U.S., TAIWAN CAN REPEL CHINESE INVASION: A war game run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, D.C., found that the U.S. and Taiwan could fend off a Chinese invasion of the island.
“In the first three weeks after invading Taiwan, China sank two multibillion-dollar U.S. aircraft carriers, attacked American bases across Japan and on Guam, and destroyed hundreds of advanced U.S. jet fighters,” The Wall Street Journal’s WARREN STROBEL wrote about the seven-hour war game. “China’s situation was, if anything, worse. It landed troops on Taiwan and seized the island’s southern third, but its amphibious fleet was decimated by relentless U.S. and Japanese missile and submarine attacks and it couldn’t resupply its own forces. The capital, Taipei, was secure in Taiwanese hands, and Beijing was low on long-range ballistic missiles to counter America’s still-potent air and maritime power.”
“Probably the biggest [takeaway] is, under most assumptions, the United States and Taiwan can conduct a successful defense of the island. That’s different from many people’s impressions,” said MARK CANCIAN, a senior adviser at the CSIS who participated in the exercise.
But that victory (if one can call it that) comes at a huge cost, Strobel noted: “Taiwan’s economy would be shattered, and the U.S. military so battered that it would take years to rebuild, with repercussions for America’s global power.”
IT’S THE WAIT THAT KILLS YA: In his recent Global Insider newsletter, our colleague RYAN HEATH has a juicy item in which sources complain about the lack of a U.S. ambassador in Italy amid rumors the post is intended for Speaker NANCY PELOSI.
One question worth asking is: How long is Pelosi — or anyone nominated for that job — willing to wait for it? Because the wait time is reaching epic levels.
The average time it takes a Biden nominee for ambassador to be confirmed by the Senate is 145.6 days, according to new data obtained by our own NAHAL TOOSI. That’s infinitesimally better than the DONALD TRUMP era, when it took 145.7 days on average.
Compared to other recent past presidents, the wait time is astonishingly long. The data, compiled and analyzed by the Partnership for Public Service, show that for RONALD REAGAN, it was 43.3 days; for GEORGE H.W. BUSH, it was 56.7 days; for BILL CLINTON, it was 83.4 days; for GEORGE W. BUSH, it was 63.1 days; and for BARACK OBAMA, it spiked to 121.1 days.
It’s easy to blame senators for a lot of this. But the Biden administration also has taken its time nominating people, and still hasn’t put anyone forth in several cases beyond just Italy, according to the American Foreign Service Association.
Publicly, this isn’t the type of thing foreign officials are willing to comment upon; privately, in conversations with NatSec Daily, they roll their eyes and shake their heads in amazement at the inefficiency of the U.S. system.
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Our mission is to prepare you for the future by engineering advanced capabilities today.
Many of today’s military systems and platforms were designed to operate independently. Through our 21st Century Security vision, Lockheed Martin is accelerating innovation, connecting defense and digital to enhance the performance of major platforms, to equip customers to stay ahead of emerging threats. Learn more.
RUSSIA LAUNCHES IRANIAN SATELLITE: U.S. officials are concerned about an Iranian satellite that Russia launched today, BBC reported. The spacecraft may allow Moscow to monitor troop movements in Ukraine but Iran claims the satellite will only be used for non-military purposes, an unnamed source told The Washington Post.
Moscow has informed Tehran that it plans to operate Khayyam, the newly launched satellite, for several months for military surveillance operations in their conflict with Ukraine.
Iran has disputed reports that it won’t have access to the spacecraft, emphasizing Tehran will control it from “day one.”
The Biden administration has not yet commented on the launch.
The launch comes one day after Russia “temporarily” suspended on-site inspections of nuclear weapons facilities permitted in the New START agreement. “When on-site inspections go away for any reason, you lose a channel for routinized interaction, which has consequences for stability and predictability. As a result, the impact of the continued absence of on-site inspections under New START goes beyond either party’s ability to verify compliance with this agreement,” said SARAH BIDGOOD, director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif.

HOUSE SHOULDN’T USE TIKTOK: The House of Representatives’ chief administrative officer’s (CAO) office sent around an advisory today warning anyone in the chamber not to download TikTok.
“The ‘TikTok’ mobile application has been deemed by the CAO Office of CyberSecurity to be a high-risk to users due to its lack of transparency in how it protects customer data, its requirement of excessive permissions, and the potential security risks involved with its use. Additionally, we believe the user base should be aware that this application is known to store users’ Data Location, Photos, and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in servers located in China and potentially mined for commercial and private purposes,” reads the bulletin seen by NatSec Daily. “[W]e do not recommend the download or use of this application due to these security and privacy concerns.”
The CAO got specific, saying TikTok can obtain a Wi-Fi network name, the serial number for the device and SIM card, GPS status information and more.
The warning comes more than two years after the U.S. military banned TikTok from government phones.

PANEL SLAPS $21M PRICE TAG ON RENAMING BASES: Renaming Army bases that honor Confederate leaders will cost just over $21 million, the commission tasked with overseeing the process estimates, our own CONNOR O’BRIEN writes in.
The Naming Commission outlined costs associated for swapping out the names across the nine installations and renaming or removing any other Confederate-affiliated assets it cataloged on those bases. The cost per installation varies, with Fort Bragg in North Carolina topping the list at $6.3 million, followed by Georgia’s Fort Benning at $4.9 million.
The cost estimate is part of a report the panel submitted to Congress on Monday dealing specifically with renaming the nine Confederate-named Army bases under its purview: Forts A.P. Hill, Benning, Bragg, Gordon, Hood, Lee, Pickett, Polk and Rucker.
The commission, which was set up by Congress in the fiscal 2021 defense bill, is required to send lawmakers its final report by Oct. 1, and is doing so in three parts. A second part of the report will tackle assets at West Point and the Naval Academy, while a third report will address remaining issues.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY –– HOUSE DEMS WANTS ABORTION ACCESS CLARITY: Two House Democrats wrote to Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN asking him to clarify the Pentagon’s abortion access policies.
“Few military installations are capable of providing abortion services directly to service members and dependents at their on-base medical facilities,” wrote Reps. SETH MOULTON (D-Mass.) and VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-Texas), both members of the House Armed Services Committee. “Since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, 26 states have outlawed or likely will outlaw abortion. Consequently, nearly half a million service members stationed domestically alone are at risk of losing access to abortion in the states where their military installations are based.”
The lawmakers also fear that troops seeking non-covered abortions will have to travel out of state, seeking a superior’s permission to for leave. “We are concerned that service members whose superiors oppose abortion could be forced to carry a pregnancy to term because their leave request gets denied,” they wrote.
As a result, Moulton and Escobar want Austin to answer some questions about how DoD will still grant access to abortion services, including travel policies should the state outlaw abortions or efforts to recruit more qualified medical personnel.
“The Department of Defense must have a plan in place to protect service members’ private healthcare decisions immediately—and Congress needs absolute clarity on the department’s strategy for responding to the Dobbs decision before it negatively impacts our military readiness,” Moulton told NatSec Daily in a statement.

PELOSI: XI JINPING A ‘SCARED BULLY’: Pelosi, just back from her trip to Taiwan, used an appearance today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to criticize Chinese leader XI JINPING.
“I think that he’s in a fragile place. He’s — his problems with his economy. He’s acting like a scared bully and this is his — before the meeting that — where he will want to be re-elected,” she said in an interview with MIKA BRZEZINSKI and JOE SCARBOROUGH.
The speaker referenced China’s upcoming 20th Party Congress, a political conclave for the local Communist Party held every five years. For much of the year, Xi was on a glidepath to a rare third term, setting himself up to be China’s leader for life. But economic woes at home, the resurgence of Covid-19 and Pelosi’s visit have sullied the expected coronation.
Now, she’s straight up calling him names — and that won’t be taken lightly in Beijing.

FIRST IN NATSEC DAILY: KARIM FARISHTA is now the director of intergovernmental affairs at the Pentagon in the legislative affairs office. He was previously the director of strategic alliances at The Asian American Foundation and is a Biden campaign alum. (h/t our own ANDREW DESIDERIO)

A message from Lockheed Martin:
Our mission is to prepare you for the future by engineering advanced capabilities today.
Many of today’s military systems and platforms were designed to operate independently. Through our 21st Century Security vision, Lockheed Martin is accelerating innovation, connecting defense and digital to enhance the performance of major platforms, to equip customers to stay ahead of emerging threats. Learn more.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, Foreign Affairs: “The Case Against a New Arms Race
WANG WEN, The New York Times: “Why China’s People No Longer Look Up to America
TOM MILLER, Brookings Institution: “Capability, Capacity, and Risk in the Sustainment of Air Force Weapons Systems

The Wilson Center, 9 a.m.: Energy Security Outlook and Japan-U.S. Cooperation”
United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 1 p.m.:“Narratives on the Middle East WMD-Free Zone: Historical accounts, drivers, and themes.”
The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, 2:30 p.m.: “Nuclear Deterrence and Missile Defense”
Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot me an email at [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.
And thanks to my editor, John Yearwood, who is by no means a “scared bully.” Maybe just a “timid crank.”


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