Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

US Military War Games to Address Climate Change Threats

Climate Home reports that “US military planners have been ordered to war game climate change scenarios, focusing on “geopolitical and socioeconomic instability” linked to extreme weather.”

“A new directive says forces need to undertake joint training exercises with allies to ‘enhance capacity’ and ‘improve tactics’ for tackling impacts linked to global warming.”

“’Mission planning and execution must include identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD [department of defence] mission,’ it reads.”

China Reacts to U.S. Warship in S. China Sea

The Asia Times reports that “China toned down vitriolic rhetoric in response to the recent passage of a US warship near a disputed island in the South China Sea.”

Chinese government-controlled media outlets, however, seized on the transit of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur on Jan. 30 within 12 miles of Triton Island in the Paracels archipelago with stepped up threats to deploy missiles and warplanes on some of its 3,200 acres of newly-created islands.”

“Analysis of official Chinese statements after the unannounced warship transit shows Beijing backed off from more threatening rhetoric used after an earlier warship passage in October.”

North Korea Satellite Launch May Affect US Missile System Placement reports that “North Korea’s claim Sunday of launching a satellite atop what could be developed as a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. will likely set off debate on more spending for missile defense in the $583 billion fiscal 2017 Pentagon budget proposal to be released Tuesday.”

“In a statement, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the North Korean action showed that ‘seven years of underfunding for U.S. missile defense have given our adversaries uncontested opportunity to advance their capabilities. The President must show leadership in squarely facing the growing threats and in adequately funding our military to meet those threats.'”

“Last year, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency proposed $8.13 billion in fiscal 2016 to improve and expand U.S. anti-missile programs. The proposal was a 3-percent increase over the previous year.”

Topic A: Defense

Legacy of Service: the 747-8 Will Be Next Air Force One

1CB5VF_7478_Approach_Sunrise_01 COMPRESSED.jpgFrom Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Air Force One has transported U.S. presidents around the world – and Boeing’s been a partner along the way.  Last week, the U.S. Air Force issued a contract that will continue the tradition of Boeing building presidential aircraft.

The next presidential aircraft will be based on the747-8 aircraft and replace the current VC-25As in use. The VC-25A is based on the 747-200 platform and was fielded in the 1990s when the first President Bush was in the Oval Office.  Although the Air Force One call sign is not specific to a particular plane but to what aircraft the president is on, a majority of the president’s travel in on the iconic 747 platform.

When the presidential seal and “United States of America” are painted on the 747-8 and one of most recognizable symbols of the presidency takes flight, Boeing airplanes will continue more than half a century of presidential service.

Check out this photo gallery to view images of the iconic Air Force One spanning more than 50 years.

Super-Fast Solar Ship May Revolutionize How We Explore Space

Defense One: “It took NASA’s Voyager I probe 35 years to reach the edge of our solar system and enter interstellar space. But a lot has changed in space technology since Voyager launched in 1977. NASA’s new space sail—propelled only by the sun—can make that same trip in 20 years.”

“On Tuesday (Feb. 2), NASA announced that the Space Launch System—the rocket that replaced the space shuttle and will eventually send humans to Mars—will carry 13 small satellites (called CubeSats) on its inaugural flight in 2018. One of those satellites is the Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout, a space vessel that runs on light.”

Navy, Air Force Lag Behind in Professionalism

“A force-wide look at misconduct among senior military officers — and the efforts to prevent it — found significant differences among the services’ cultures,” the Military Times reports.

Said Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein: “The Army and the Marine Corps have a very mature profession of arms. The ground forces, they send really junior people into leadership positions. They have company command, they have O-3s going into command, and their professional identity is learned very early on.”

Yet the Navy and the Air Force, historically, “are very technically focused.”

A Family Friendly Pentagon

Time: “There was historic news out of the Pentagon last week, but it wasn’t about new weapons or an operation against ISIS. Instead it was Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s plan to remake the US military by placing “a higher priority on work/life balance,” rewiring how it handles the changing ways we think of parenting in the 21st century.”

“The “Force of the Future” plan aims to remake the increasingly millennial military into a competitive employment alternative to places like Google and Facebook. However, one of the key challenges for that goal has been that retention rates for military women, few in number to begin with (14.8% of enlisted personnel and 17.4% of the officer corps), are 30% lower than for men, with Carter noting that “work and family conflict is one of the primary reasons they report leaving.”

Topic A: Defense

Saving Money Again and Again? Yes.

P8AT1MtRanierP64934-04_high-resThe U.S. Navy recently awarded a $2.5 billion contract to build 20 additional P-8A Poseidon aircraft.  By itself, the contract speaks to the capability of the Poseidon and the customer’s confidence in its performance.  It is also a testament to the cost benefits of the in-line production system which is driving down the unit cost for each P-8A.

Historically, commercial derivative aircraft like the P-8A were built as commercial airplanes.  After production they were cut up and reassembled to include the required military components, a time consuming and expensive process.

Enter a unique collaboration.  When Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense, Space and Security asked “Why not do this together?” a new concept was born.  Now these military aircraft begin their lives as commercial airplanes alongside their commercially-dedicated siblings.  They move down an export-controlled commercial production line, making changes along the way to meet military needs: a structure change here, military systems provisions there…all without sacrificing production time or efficiency.  

At the end of production, those commercial aircraft have been reborn as military aircraft that can perform anti-submarine or anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, transport, surveillance and reconnaissance…any number of missions.

So how is it possible that a process that creates a complex, highly versatile military aircraft can decrease unit cost over time?  When rolled seamlessly into the existing 737 production system, all P-8As benefit from the economies of scale, high-volume lean production process, and robust supply chain for the multitude of parts common to both platforms.  The result has been a 30 percent reduction in unit cost since the initial P-8A contract.  And the focus to move more production elements “to the left”, back into the commercial production line to maximize all those benefits, continues.  Just gets better and better.

Russia Increasing Military Drills to Cold War Levels:NATO

Fox News reports that “Russia has stepped up its military maneuvers to a level unseen since the height of the Cold War, according to a new report released by NATO Thursday.”

“Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general and author of the report, noted that Moscow has conducted at least 18 large-scale exercises over the past three years, ‘some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.'”

“Those exercises included several simulated nuclear attacks against NATO allies and partner nations, such as Sweden in March 2013.”

US Works to Build Anti-Islamic State Strategy in Libya reports that “the Obama administration is struggling to find the right mix of military and diplomatic moves to stop the Islamic State in Libya, where the extremist group has taken advantage of the political chaos in the country to gain a foothold with worrying implications for the U.S. and Europe — particularly Italy, just 300 miles away.”

“U.S. officials have publicly warned of the risks of Libya becoming the next Syria, where the Islamic State flourished amid civil war and spread into Iraq.”

“No large-scale U.S. military action is contemplated in Libya, senior administration officials said, but Obama last week directed his national security team to bolster counterterrorism efforts there while also pursuing diplomatic possibilities for solving Libya’s political crisis and forming a government of national unity. While the Islamic State has emerged in other places, including Afghanistan, Libya is seen as its key focus outside of Syria and Iraq.”

House Introduces Bill to Requires Women to Sign Up for Draft

Stars and Stripes reports that “two House Republicans introduced a bill Thursday requiring eligible women in the United States to sign up for the military draft, just days after it was recommended by the Marine Corps and Army.”

“Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran, and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Minn., a retired Navy SEAL, filed the Draft American’s Daughters Act to stoke debate over the military’s historic move to fully integrate female troops into all combat roles. If passed, women from 18-26 years old would for the first time have to join men in registering with the Selective Service program and potentially be forced to fight in future wars.”

“’If this administration wants to send 18, 20-year-old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives,’ Hunter said in a released statement.”

Topic A: Defense

New Air Force Tanker Conducts First Air Refueling

A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft successfully completed its first air-to-air refueling test flight, marking a significant development milestone for the program to replace most of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet.

On January 24, the KC-46A, with a combined Air Force and Boeing crew, took off from Boeing Field outside Seattle. While flying at 20,000 feet, the crew extended the tanker boom smoothly into the receptacle above the nose of an F-16 fighter, offloading approximately 1,600 pounds of fuel.

The KC-46’s refueling flight kicks off what is called “Milestone C” testing – flights and tests that will ultimately lead to an Air Force decision to begin production. As part of upcoming flight tests, the new tanker also will refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet Navy fighter, a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, an A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier short take off and vertical landing jet, as well as receive fuel from a KC-10 tanker.

The KC-46A, derived from Boeing’s 767 commercial airplane, is a multi-role tanker that will refuel U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft. Passengers, cargo and patients also can be transported.Boeing is building four test aircraft – two 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The 767-2Cs enter flight test as commercial freighters prior to receiving aerial refueling systems, while the KC-46As are fully-equipped tankers. The different configurations are used to meet FAA and military certification requirements. The program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, has completed more than 260 flight hours since its inaugural flight in December 2014. The KC-46 tanker has completed more than 140 flight hours since its first flight September 25, 2015.

To learn more and watch a video of the aerial refueling, click here.

U.S. General: Military Needs to Push Back Taliban

The Washington Post reports that “the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has presented military leaders with recommendations that, if approved, would further expand the U.S. military role in helping local forces confront the Taliban and other militants.”

“In an interview, Gen. John F. Campbell said the potential steps, which include having U.S. forces accompany more Afghan units closer to the front lines and expanding the use of U.S. air power, were focused on enhancing support to Afghan military during what’s expected to be a fierce Taliban offensive in 2016.”

“‘I’m not going to leave without making sure my leadership understands that there are things we need to do,’ the general said during a visit to Washington.”

U.S. Military Working on Cyborgs reports that “The U.S. military is working to develop a new chip technology that, when implanted, will connect human brains to computers — making cyborgs.”

“Should the chip succeed, it could have nearly limitless possibilities. The U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) often plays a big role in the development of technologies that civilians eventually benefit from, such as GPS or the Internet.”

“For the US military, it could help warfighters on a number of levels, such as augmenting their senses- hearing, sight and more.”

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