Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
July 22, 2014

Injured Vets Program in Danger

“A program that allows veterans with traumatic brain injuries to receive treatment in assisted living facilities is in danger of closing down,” The Hill reports.

“With only two weeks to go before the August recess, Congress has yet to take action on legislation that would renew the pilot program before it expires on Sept. 30. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) proposed legislation this week that would prolong the treatment option for another three years at a cost of $46 million.”

“But the treatment program is at risk being lost in the shuffle, with lawmakers in both chambers of Congress preoccupied with trying to reach an agreement on overhauling the troubled veterans healthcare system. Those talks are hitting the wall over questions about whether the cost of overhauling the Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics should be paid for through other changes to the budget.”

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Senator Revives Commercial Airliner Anti-Missile Defense Idea

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) told the Washington Post that, in the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster and with shoulder-fired missiles proliferating in places like Libya in Iraq, he would press the Federal Aviation Administration to install anti-missile defenses on commercial airliners.

Roll Call: “It probably won’t be an easy sell. Right after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the idea had some real momentum. But it eventually suffered a long, slow death over cost, reliability and need.”

“The focus back then was on shoulder-fired missiles, known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems or the unfortunate acronym of MANPADS. Evidence points to MH17 being shot down by a more advanced missile system.”

Weekend Viewing: Five Videos from Geopolitical Experts

Leading Authorities, a speakers bureau, posts links to geopolitical speakers who “are experts at discussing today’s news and most complex situations. From ISIS changing the landscape in the Middle East, to increased Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, they explain what it means for American people and America’s interests and how it impacts business throughout the world.”

  • “Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, recently said, ‘Iraq as we know it is gone.’ Hayden dissects political situations in hot spots around the world, analyzing the tumultuous global environment.”
  • “Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA, told Charlie Rose that ISIS is ‘the most serious set of circumstances in the Middle East’ since 1973. See his insights in a gripping presentation on geopolitics.”
  • “Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who recently said, ‘It’s very likely that [Iraq’s] national boundaries will change pretty significantly,’ is a dynamic, powerful speaker, often impressing audiences with field-tested leadership lessons.”
  • “John Allen, retired four-star general and the longest-serving leader of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, shared his recent thoughts on the unfolding situation in Iraq: ‘We must strike them with a hard blow.’ Watch Allen explain what leaders must do to be successful in facing today’s challenges.”
  • “Former DEVGRU commander retired U.S. Navy Admiral Eric Olson discusses the megatrends pressuring world politics, economies, and social systems, and what America’s role is moving forward.”

Our Path from the Moon to Mars

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NASA photo

Just 66 years after America achieved first flight at Kitty Hawk, a new generation of pioneers landed a man on the Moon, fulfilling NASA’s promise to be first to plant its flag on extra-terrestrial terrain. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launched on a Saturn V from Earth July 16, 1969 and Armstrong took that first step onto the lunar surface on July 20.

“Many of us vividly remember sitting with family and friends watching history play out in grainy black and white television 45 years ago when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s surface,” said John Elbon, Boeing Space Exploration vice president and general manager. “That moment impacted a lot of lives and set young people around the world on the path toward careers in science and engineering. Those space enthusiasts in turn launched decades of incredible technological advancements.”

Later generations were engaged by the Space Shuttle program, as it launched again and again to transport crew and cargo to build the world’s first on-orbit space station, realizing NASA’s dream of off-planet habitation to foster new discoveries in science, medicine and technology.

“Future scientists, engineers and researchers are looking to us to achieve the next great accomplishments in space exploration that will inspire them to dream and work for a role in tomorrow’s space adventure beyond Earth and on to Mars,” said Elbon. “Our teams are making history, giving shape to NASA’s vision for near Earth and deep space exploration. The work we are doing today is opening doors all around the world where new generations are hoping for their own Apollo 11 moment.”

NASA today is maintaining the International Space Station, building a Commercial Space Transportation System to resupply the ISS and transport crew, while also building Space Launch System (SLS). In labs all over the country, teams are working on a number of advancements in propulsion, materials, and new capabilities to enable deep space exploration.

It may be the journey that matters, but we’ll all remember the moment when we take that first step onto Mars terrain.

Pentagon Plans Combat Training for Syrian Rebels

The Pentagon has drawn up plans to train a small group of Syrian rebels opposed to the regime of President Bashar Assad in an effort to influence the bloody civil war that has engulfed the country since 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Time: “Citing anonymous sources, the Journal reported that defense officials told key congressional committees at closed-door briefings last week that preliminary military estimates call for training a 2,300-man force over an 18-month period.”

“The fighters would be vetted to ensure they are ideological moderates and not Islamic extremists, who have flocked to the country to fight against Assad’s Shi’ite-aligned forces. The training would not begin until next year and would require congressional approval.”

Pentagon Defends $60 Billion Wartime Request

“Pentagon officials defended their request for $60 billion in war funds before the House Budget Committee on Thursday as lawmakers accused them of trying to avoid budget caps and congressional scrutiny,” The Hill reports.

“The Pentagon is requesting the money for its fiscal 2015 wartime budget, the overseas contingency operations fund (OCO), but only $11 billion of the total would go toward U.S. operations in Afghanistan, which are being wound down.”

“Lawmakers have accused the administration of seeking a “slush fund” to shift non-war expenses from the base budget into the wartime account. But Defense officials said that most of the money — $53.7 billion — would go to operations outside of Afghanistan but in support of the mission in the region.”

War Slush Fund or New Normal?

“Lawmakers say the Obama administration’s Overseas Contingency Operations funding request is a “slush fund” that gives the Pentagon a free pass to engage in any fight, anywhere, without congressional oversight,” Defense One reports.

“Pentagon officials say they need flexibility in an era of unanticipated flare-ups and sequestration-induced cutbacks.”

“The back-and-forth over OCO funding belies both sides’ resignation to an uncomfortable reality: This is the new normal.”

Export-Import Bank Matters to Economic and National Security

The U.S. has a bank that helps keep a level playing field for businesses selling goods on the global market. It’s a bank where 90 percent of the transactions last year benefitted small American businesses. Since 2008, it has supported $107 billion of U.S. exports and more than 1 million jobs across all 50 states. It also covers all of its costs through the fees it charges its foreign customers, and it has put a billion dollars back into the U.S. Treasury in each of the past two years. The bank is the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and it could close its doors if Congress does not reauthorize its activities by Sept. 30.

The bank has been around for 80 years and underwrites loans to foreign entities to buy U.S. products. Fifty-nine other countries have similar banks to support their exports. Without Ex-Im, American businesses would lose sales to foreign competitors, and American workers would lose their jobs.

America must stay engaged, and competitive, in global markets. Ex-Im helps America succeed in tough global competitions. It helps create and sustain U.S. jobs, generate economic growth, and provide the revenue needed to create innovative new American products. It also helps America build and strengthen its ties to other nations. All of these are critical elements to our nation’s future prosperity and national security. We cannot be strong if our economy is not strong. Congress needs to help keep American businesses in the game. It needs to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.

Learn more about how the Ex-Im bank works and why it’s vital to America’s economy:

Senate Panel Asks Pentagon to ‘Reassess’ Alternate F-35 Engine Value

Defense News reports that “in the wake of an engine fire that grounded the F-35 fleet, a US Senate subcommittee wants senior Pentagon officials to consider reviving an effort to develop a second power plant.”

“In 2011, the Pentagon ordered GE and Rolls-Royce to stop work on a second F-35 fighter engine, with the Obama administration calling it an example of wasteful defense spending. The department, in announcing a stop-work order three years ago, dubbed the F136 power plant program a ‘waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higher departmental priorities.’”

“Proponents of what long was known simply as “the alternate engine program” claimed it would have saved substantial amounts of money over the life of the F-35 fleet, while also providing a safety net should the F-35’s primary power plant, being developed by Pratt & Whitney, suffer a major problem.”

U.S. Military Tests Self-Guided Bullets

The site Ammoland.com writes that “in a video released by DARPA Thursday, Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance (EXACTO) .50-caliber bullets maneuvered independently mid-flight to accurately strike targets purposefully offset from where the firing sniper rifle was aimed.”

“Wired reported in 2012 the first successful prototype test of the military’s first-ever guided small-caliber bullets, developed by Sandia National Laboratories and Lockheed Martin. Around four inches long, the bullets feature optical tips to detect laser beams shown on targets.”

“Actuators inside the bullets then steer tiny fins on their surfaces, which guide them to targets based on information from the tip sensors.”

U.S. Military Didn’t Seek 2017 Afghan Pullout

The Associated Press reports that “the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is telling senators that military commanders did not recommend the White House announce the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2017, as the president ordered.”

“Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said U.S. and Afghan military leaders would have preferred to see American officials be “a bit more ambiguous” in troop numbers for 2017, and not telegraph to the enemy that international troops would leave.”

“Dunford was testifying before a Senate committee, which is considering his nomination to head the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Putting the ‘Unmanned’ in Unmanned Little Bird

Autopilot is a common feature on most major civilian and military fixed-wing airplanes, but it’s very rare to find on vertical lift aircraft. Thanks to a kit Boeing is developing for the Unmanned Little Bird, hundreds of rotorcraft could eventually be capable of flying unmanned.

Watch the video to see the Unmanned Little Bird in action:

Military Awards Initial Space Plane Design Contracts

Space.com reports that “the U.S. military is moving ahead in its plan to develop a robotic space plane capable of launching payloads to orbit cheaply and efficiently.”

“The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded initial design contracts for its Experimental Spaceplane project, known as XS-1, to three different companies: Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman, DARPA officials announced.”

The ‘Polluted Legacy’ of Camp Lejeune

Newsweek reports that “Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, is a toxic paradox, a place where young men and women were poisoned while in the service of their nation. They swore to defend this land, and the land made them sick. And there are hundreds of Camp Lejeunes across the country, military sites contaminated with all manner of pollutants, from chemical weapon graveyards to vast groundwater deposits of gasoline. Soldiers know they might be felled by a sniper’s bullet in Baghdad or a roadside bomb in the gullies of Afghanistan. They might even expect it. But waterborne carcinogens are not an enemy whose ambush they prepare for.”

“That toxic enemy is far more prevalent than most American suspect, not to mention far more intractable. That the Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter is a refrain one often hears from environmentalists, who have long-standing, unsurprising gripes with the military-industrial complex. But politics aside, the greenies have a convincing point. Dive into the numbers, as I did, and the Pentagon starts to make Koch Industries look like an organic farm.”

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