The bipartisan House task force on America’s future defense is path-breaking

Late last month, a bipartisan congressional task force issued a timely report that, apart from purely security-oriented outlets, received far less media coverage than it deserved. Congressional bipartisanship has become virtually an oxymoron in the current political climate. Nevertheless, Republicans and Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee Task Force on the Future of Defense were able to come together to produce a serious, thought-provoking essay that focuses on implementing a defense strategy that is responsive to the threats that will confront America far into the future, indeed as far as the end of this century.

Many of the task force’s proposals have been outlined in previous studies and in congressional testimony. They include a greater focus on funding and developing advanced technologies and incorporating them into military systems and structures; concluding a new arms control agreement with Russia; and controlling the leakage of technology by expanding the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s (CFIUS) purview and the scope of Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) legislation.

Similarly, as others have done, the report called for revitalizing — indeed, “modernizing” — America’s relationships with allies, partners and friends. It went even further, however, by calling on Washington to establish “new alliances to meet emerging threats.” Whether the United States can do so is an open question, not merely because Washington has walked away from a host of international agreements in the past several years, but also because states have become chary about formalizing alliance relationships. On the other hand, America certainly can deepen its political and military ties to friendly countries, in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, as it has done with Sweden, Finland and Singapore in recent years. 

The report recognizes that America’s security fundamentally depends on a civilian and military workforce that is open to innovation and experimentation; meaningful cooperation with the non-defense commercial sector; and an overhaul of budgetary priorities to move away from legacy programs and incorporate cutting-edge technology in the “program of record.” In particular, the report recognizes that the national security workforce is woefully ignorant of the latest technological developments. 

The Department of Defense (DOD) bureaucracy relies far too heavily on consultants and contractors as intermediaries between government and private industry. Moreover, the bureaucratic culture in the Pentagon is suspicious, if not downright hostile, to advances in technology that emerge from the commercial sector. While former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in particular, strived to close the psychological gap between the DOD and Silicon Valley, the report correctly posits that there is considerable room for improvement — in terms of funding for advanced technologies and contracting with the non-defense industrial base to obtain them. 

Most significantly, the report underscores the importance of a “whole-of-government” approach to national security and recommends that the State Department lead such efforts. Regrettably, the term “whole of government” has become a mantra that bureaucrats utter but do not act upon. Unfortunately for them, and the nation they serve, America’s most dangerous potential adversaries, China and Russia, have

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1 PA County Remains In COVID-19 Red Zone: White House Task Force

PENNSYLVANIA — New coronavirus cases and test positivity rates have stabilized in Pennsylvania, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said this week in its latest state-level report.

Still, one county — Centre — remains in the coronavirus “red” zone. One is in the “orange” zone and five are in the “yellow” zone.

The task force’s state-level reports summarize coronavirus activity and offer recommendations to state leaders based on trends. Pennsylvania’s most recent report was dated Sept. 27.

The Center for Public Integrity has been collecting and disseminating the weekly reports, which are sent by the task force to governors around the country. The reports aren’t made public by the task force.

In addition to assessing recent data, the report makes recommendations for officials to follow as it responds to the pandemic.

The task force is recommending Penn State and Indiana University — where recent outbreaks have been reported — be “monitored closely.” Centre County, the sole red zone county, is home to Penn State’s University Park Campus.

RELATED: Coronavirus Spike At Penn State Alarms Top PA Health Officials

In the previous report issued Sept. 20, there were two Pennsylvania counties in the red zone. Counties in the red zone have reported more than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10 percent. Indiana County, previously red, is now in the yellow zone, the Sept. 27 report said.

Northumberland County is in the orange zone, which means it has reported between 51 and 100 new cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result between 8 and 10 percent.

Counties in the yellow zone have reported between 10 and 50 new cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result between 5 and 7.9 percent. In addition to Indiana, counties listed in the yellow zone in the most recent report include York, Juniata, Lebanon, and Perry.

Overall, Pennsylvania remains in the yellow zone for cases and in the green zone for test positivity. The state’s new case rate remains below the national average, with 43 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 93 per 100,000 residents.

Pennsylvania reported 1,153 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 158,967. There have been 8,142 coronavirus deaths in Pennsylvania since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Pennsylvania can be viewed in full here.

This article originally appeared on the Across Pennsylvania Patch

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House GOP China task force releases recommendations

The House GOP’s China task force unveiled its full report laying out hundreds of recommendations and legislative suggestions to combat threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party on Wednesday. 

The report includes more than 400 policy recommendations to address issues ranging from national security concerns, human rights violations, problems with the supply chain, Beijing’s missteps in its handling of the pandemic and China’s overall expanding influence on the world stage.

The task force — which is made up of 15 GOP lawmakers who sit on 11 different committees — was initially slated to be bipartisan before Democrats ultimately opted out before its launch in May.

Republicans insisted the report is not politically motivated, even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE has sought at every turn to tie Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from Trump-Biden debate clash The Memo: Debate or debacle? Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate MORE to China. The report is being released less than five weeks before Election Day.

“It’s not a Republican or Democrat report, it’s not a political exercise, it’s policy. And we hope it will be a blueprint for future Congresses,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) told The Hill in an interview. McCaul is the the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the task force. 

“In fact, two-thirds of the legislative recommendations we make are bipartisan recommendations, some of which have already been passed in either House or Senate, and it deals with everything Chinese Communist Party related.” 

The report comes amid one of the lowest points in relations between the U.S. and China, with the two side clashing over trade, intellectual property protections, cyber security, human rights, Hong Kong’s freedom and Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. 

Recommendations included in the report include a push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, for the U.S. to provide a safe haven for Hong Kong refugees and calls on the administration to look into whether human rights violations in China against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups rise to the level of genocide. 

The group also calls for the implementation of a foreign investment blacklist for countries that require heightened scrutiny, increased transparency in companies’ financial disclosures that do business in the Xinjiang region in addition to substantial military investments and investments into technology to remain competitive. 

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White House Coronavirus Task Force Optimistic About CT

CONNECTICUT — Connecticut’s latest White House Coronavirus Task Force state report was optimistic about Connecticut’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but recommended the state keep a close eye on infections connected to colleges and universities. The report was obtained by The Center for Public Integrity.

“Overall control of the epidemic remains good; Connecticut has seen a decrease in cases last week after 2 weeks of upticks,” the task force report authors wrote.

The state’s positive test rate was 1.6 percent last week, which was a 0.3 percent change drop from the previous week. The U.S. overall has a positive test rate of 4.3 percent.

The reported, dated Sept. 27 came before Connecticut’s Tuesday report which saw an increase in the number of people hospitalized. Gov. Ned Lamont said he believes Tuesday’s coronavirus metrics were a short-term issue.

The task force noted that there are outbreaks reported at colleges, including the University of Connecticut and Sacred Heart University.

“While the numbers of cases are modest, transmission is continuing. Sacred Heart reported 87 cases in the past 7 days, almost 9% of the state total,” the report authors wrote.

The task force was complimentary of Connecticut’s rules and guidelines to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“Connecticut has done well with controlling spread in large part due to a well thought-out, gradated set of social distancing measures for communities based on transmission indicators. The careful, gradual relaxation in restrictions conditional on case stability is commended as is the continued restrictions on bars.”

Connecticut is scheduled to have its third reopening phase on Oct. 8. It’ll bring 75 percent capacity for indoor restaurants and greater capacity for commercial indoor and outdoor events for events like weddings.

The task force recommended that Connecticut use its share of the Abbott Labs rapid coronavirus test for congregate settings and to monitor the spread of the virus in K-12 schools. Lamont announced Tuesday that the state plans to do just that.

Read The Center for Public Integrity’s full state report repository here.

See also: Adam Sandler Visits Connecticut Eatery

This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch

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Trump plans mass events in Wisconsin where White House task force calls for social distancing.

Wisconsin is listed in the document as the state with the third-highest rate of new cases in the country, with 243 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous week, about 2.6 times greater than the national average. Ahead of Trump’s scheduled rally in Green Bay, the Bellin Health System said Tuesday that its hospital in that city is at 94 percent capacity as covid-19 continues to spike in the community.

“During the intense period of viral surge, large numbers of acutely infected individuals caused exponential growth in infections,” the task force report reads in a section about Wisconsin. “Although young adults are the most affected group currently, spread to other age groups is inevitable.”

The task force report, which is sent to the leaders of all 50 states and D.C., is distributed weekly with specific recommendations for curtailing the spread of the coronavirus, along with progress reports on testing and county-by-county assessments of the prevalence of the virus. The reports are not made public.

The debate over whether Trump should gather large crowds comes as the president faced off against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, for the first presidential debate, offering sharply different opinions on whether public health recommendations against large crowds are justified.

During Tuesday’s debate, Trump defended his events as opportunities for his supporters to gather to hear him and claimed that there has been “no negative effect” from his rallies, even though health officials in Tulsa said a spike in covid-19 cases was “likely” sparked by an indoor Trump gathering in June.

The president also said he was “okay with masks” but falsely claimed that scientists are divided over their value. Health experts have said mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing and being careful about crowds currently make up the best defense against the virus.

Biden, by contrast, said Trump has been “totally irresponsible” in the way he has handled social distancing and masks, and in holding large rallies.

“Basically he has been a fool on this,” Biden said of Trump.

“If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing,” the president responded. “But you can’t. Nobody can.”

In addition to the White House task force’s guidance, local concern has been growing in Wisconsin about Trump’s planned events, which are scheduled for outdoor airplane hangars without universal mask mandates. Gov. Tony Evers (D) said Tuesday in a news briefing that Trump should either cancel the events or require mask-wearing by everyone who attends.

“This virus is real, and it is devastating our communities, and it will continue to do so until we all get on the same team,” Evers said in a press call about the recent spike in the state’s cases.

He told Wisconsin residents that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing or staying at home, and he asked them to cancel family barbecues, play dates or dinner parties, and make all large gatherings virtual.

Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday that Wisconsin is “in a

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House GOP China task force releases report on combating Chinese Communist Party: ‘The U.S. must act decisively’

House Republicans Wednesday will release the results of their monthslong probe into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and how the U.S. can turnaround a “failed” engagement strategy that has put Americans’ safety and prosperity at risk.

The China Task Force report, to be released in full later Wednesday, makes 83 key findings and 430 policy recommendations on how the U.S. can better combat the threat of the CCP, whose malign activities have gone unchecked for too long, the GOP leaders say.

“This report is the blueprint for bipartisan actions Congress and the Administration can take now to address the greatest national and economic security challenge of this generation,” the task force report says.

REPUBLICANS UNVEIL NEW AGENDA IF THEY WIN BACK HOUSE

The recommendations include securing the medical supply chain by boosting U.S. production, allowing the Department of Defense to fund experimentation of emerging technologies to modernize the U.S. military faster and to require the Treasury Department to sanction China.

The report also calls for the U.S. to secure a bilateral free trade agreement with Taiwan, to require heightened scrutiny of Chinese investment in U.S. companies, and to cut off material support for CCP military-industrial base companies.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 15: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with House Republicans, conduct an event on the House steps of the Capitol to announce the Commitment to America, agenda on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The plan outlines ways to restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, and renew the American dream. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The China Task Force, comprised of 15 GOP members, was formed in May to assess the threat of the Chinese Community Party and come up with legislative solutions on how to combat the risks. The work has taken on greater importance during the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China before killing more than 1 million people worldwide.

In the aftermath of shortages of personal protective equipment in the United States, the task force has honed in on securing the medical and national security supply chains through targeted tax incentives to speed up production of critical goods. The GOP representatives also call for providing a safe harbor for Hong Kong refugees and to determine whether the crimes against the Uyghurs, a persecuted ethnic minority in China, amount to genocide.

REP. KEVIN BRADY CALLS FOR PROBE INTO WHETHER TRUMP’S TAX INFORMATION RELEASE WAS ‘ILLEGAL’

The China task force was initially set to be bipartisan, but Democrats bailed on the effort, the Washington Post first reported. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, plowed forward with the GOP effort anyway and named House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican Leader Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman.

Since May, the task force has met with 125 people, including policy experts, business leaders and bipartisan current and former administration officials.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairs the China Task Force

The U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China more than 40 years ago.

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‘Everything’ White House Task Force Adviser Who Sided With Trump Over Masks Says ‘Is False,” CDC Director Tells Colleague

Members of the White House’s coronavirus task force don’t always see eye to eye, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), isn’t keen on comments the newest addition has been making.

Redfield, who has been a member of the task force since its inception, told a colleague during a September 25 phone call that “everything” Dr. Scott Atlas says “is false.” Atlas was added to the task force in August, and Redfield warned a colleague during the phone conversation, which was overheard by NBC News, that he was misleading President Donald Trump with data about mask efficacy, herd immunity benefits and who is at risk.

Atlas contradicted Redfield’s sworn testimony last Wednesday that the data shows more than 90 percent of the U.S. population is still susceptible to the new coronavirus. Atlas said during a briefing that same day that Redfield “misstated something” and added that the CDC’s state-by-state data “is old.” Atlas also said immunity to the infection is not “solely determined by the percentage of people who have antibodies” but also by cross-immunity from other infections.

“So the answer is no, it is not 90 percent of people that are susceptible to the infection,” Atlas said, adding that people are “supposed to believe the science and I’m telling you the science.”

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Redfield and Atlas also broke on the usage of masks. The CDC director told a Senate panel on September 16 that wearing a mask was one of the “most powerful tools” American have right now.

robert redfield scott atlas cdc trump coronavirus
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield testifies at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal response to the coronavirus on September 23.
Alex Edelman/ POOL/AFP/Getty

Redfield told senators on September 23 that it’s important to use masks if a vaccine is only 50 percent effective, because it’ll give immunity to only half the population.

In response, Trump, who called Redfield about his comment that masks could be more effective than a vaccine, said that a mask “perhaps helps” and that Redfield had “made a mistake,” a stance that Atlas supported.

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“There’s no sound science that shows that you should have all populations wear masks in all circumstances…and that is very much in concert with what is posted on the World Health Organization website and that’s very much in concert with the president’s own policy,” Atlas told CNN on September 18.

Newsweek reached out to Atlas, the CDC and the office of Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the task force, for comments but did not receive responses in time for publication.

Trump, who is regularly tested for the coronavirus, started wearing a mask only in the summer and faced criticism for not embracing facial coverings earlier, in order to lead by example. He pushed back on mask wearing, often citing the earliest months of the outbreak when experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of

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Deborah Birx ‘distressed’ at direction of WH COVID-19 task force: CNN

  • US COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told those close to her that she is “distressed” at the direction of the White House coronavirus task force and is weighing if she will remain with the team, CNN reported Wednesday.
  • The White House coronavirus expert told people close to her that she felt her role was diminished after neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas joined the task force.
  • “The president has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe,” a source close to Birx told CNN. “There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished.”
  • Atlas denied the report during a news conference Wednesday evening, saying Birx “speaks for herself but that’s a completely false story and she denied it today.”
  • Another source close to Birx told CNN that the White House coronavirus expert is unlikely to leave her position on the task force but said there is some “frustration” in her day-to-day work.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx told people she is “distressed” at the direction of the White House coronavirus task force and is weighing how much longer she’ll remain in the position, CNN reported Wednesday.

Birx, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, reportedly felt her role became “diminished” after neuroradiologist Dr. Scott Atlas joined the task force, according to the CNN report.

“The president has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe,” a source close to Birx told CNN. “There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished.” The source added that Birx believes Atlas could be feeding Trump misleading information on the coronavirus, specifically around mask-wearing and its role in preventing coronavirus spread.

At a press conference Wednesday evening, Atlas denied there being any tensions in his relationship with Birx, saying she “speaks for herself but that’s a completely false story and she denied it today.”

“It’s completely false,” he told White House reporters.

White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN in a statement that Birx plays an equal part on the task force.

“All of the medical experts in the administration are working together around the clock to carry out the President’s No. 1 priority: protecting the health and safety of the American people and defeating this virus from China,” Deere said. “President Trump relies on the advice and counsel of all of his top health officials every day and any suggestion that their role is being diminished is just false.”

Another source close to Birx told CNN that the White House coronavirus expert is unlikely to leave her position on the task force, but said there is some “frustration” in her day-to-day work.

“She is a good soldier,” the source told CNN. “I don’t think she’s going anywhere.”

James Glassman, who previously worked with the State Department and a friend of Birx, told CNN that Birx is more focused on “just getting the job done.”

“Dr. Birx is out in the states with the most trouble,

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Interior awards its last major EIS task order for $483M

Written by

Dave Nyczepir

The Department of the Interior has largely finished the procurement portion of its transition to the new, governmentwide contract for information technology and telecommunications, following the award of a nearly $483 million voice services task order.

Interior awarded the task order covering telephone and conferencing services to the economically disadvantaged, women-owned small business Core Technologies under the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract on Sept. 17.

The department was only 33% of the way toward transitioning off the expiring Networx contract by the General Services Administration‘s deadline of Sept. 30, 2022, as of early August but can now focus on fully on modernization.

Interior awarded Core Technologies a $1.6 million EIS task order for telecom support for the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency on Aug. 28. Together the two task orders represent Core Technologies’ first under EIS.

The department’s largest task order was a $1.6 billion award to CenturyLink for core network services and access services like Wi-Fi in January.

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Interior awards $482M EIS task order — FCW

Acquisition

Interior awards $482M EIS task order

communications (windwheel/Shutterstock.com) 

On Sept. 17, the Department of the Interior’s Office of the CIO inked a $482 million task order for telephony and conferencing services under the GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract with Norcross, Ga.-based Core Technologies.

The contract was awarded by the Interior Department’s Business Center, through its Acquisition Services Directorate.

The contract with Core also marks another major EIS commitment for the Interior Department. Last winter, the agency signed a $1.6 billion task order with CenturyLink for managed core network services and managed access services. On July 30, the Interior Department awarded Verizon a $147 million task order to provide network transport services for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ education network.

The Interior Department awarded the Core contract after a full and open competition, and not through a set-aside, according to contracting documents.

Core is one of the three small business contractors on EIS, categorized as an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business.

The other two small business EIS contractors are MetTel and Microtech.

About the Author


Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell.

Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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