Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
July 31, 2015

New Legal, Strategic Questions As US-Trained Syrians Enter Combat

Defense One: “In early July, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he didn’t know whether the U.S. military could defend the Syrian opposition fighters it is training and equipping as its proxy ground force. Now, as the month draws to a close, the White House is preparing to fly strike missions from Turkish air bases against ISIS, and is backing a ‘safe zone’ to clear ISIS away from Turkey’s border with Syria. All of this raises the distinct possibility of clashes with Syrian government forces — yet Pentagon leaders don’t yet know whether they have the legal authority to order U.S. troops to fight.”

“The senators who questioned Carter in early July on potential U.S. military engagement with Assad in defense of these fighters said they haven’t yet received a response… Kaine and others such as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, argue that the U.S. shouldn’t be sending forces they have trained into war without a guarantee they’ll be protected. Critics also say that the authorizations for the use of military force that the Obama administration has said provide legal authority for the nearly-year-old ISIS fight without additional approval from Congress, originally intended to go after al Qaeda and invade Iraq, clearly do not apply to the Syrian government.”

Marine F-35’s Reliability Problems Persist

“The Marine Corps’ version of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter demonstrated poor reliability in a 12-day exercise at sea, according to the U.S. military’s top testing officer,” writes Bloomberg Business.

“Six F-35Bs, the most complex version of the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, were available for flights only half of the time needed, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. A Marine Corps spokesman said the readiness rate was more than 65 percent.”

“That assessment raises new concerns as General Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant, is poised to decide as soon as this week whether to declare the plane ready for limited combat operations. The Marine version must make short takeoffs from ships and vertical landings like a helicopter… The declaration of ‘initial operational capability’ is five years behind the original projected date of April 2010 that was set in 2001, when the F-35 program began. Earlier delays resulted from difficulties in reducing the plane’s weight, with its propulsion system and with reliability.”

White House Outlines Plan to Close Guantanamo

The Hill reports that the “White House’s chief counterterrorism official outlined the administration’s plan for closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and said the president hopes to do so before leaving office in 2017.”

Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, “said the plan was to transport the 52 detainees deemed eligible for transfer to countries with appropriate security arrangements.  According to Monaco, those who are deemed ‘too dangerous to release’ would be subject to periodic review boards for transfer eligibility. In 10 instances, 13 review boards have already resulted in individuals being moved to the so-called ‘transfer bucket.'”

“Under the law of war, Monaco said, those remaining after review would be transferred to U.S. military prisons or supermax security prisons, and be subjected either to prosecution in military commissions or Article III courts. Monaco did not specifically discuss plans for the 10 detainees who are being tried by military commissions at Guantánamo.”

The Australian Growler: Ready to Fly, Ready to Jam

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Royal Australian Air Force gaining airborne electronic attack capability with first EA-18G Growler (Boeing photo)

Boeing and the U.S. Navy extended advanced airborne electronic attack (AEA) capability to a key U.S. ally, presenting the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with its first EA-18G Growler.

Australia joins the U.S.  as the only two nations to have airborne electronic attack capability. The Growler’s radar-jamming devices deceive and frustrate enemy forces and allow strike jets to carry out their missions undetected.

“The Growlers really complement our combat capability, our legacy fighters, our Super Hornets and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF); they’ll be a lot more  lethal when you have a Growler up there to support,” said Wing Cmdr. Cameron Cornell, deputy project manager, Australian Growler program. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force will train with the U.S. Navy to learn the intricacies of controlling the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Royal Australian Growler recently demonstrated its agile flight capabilities during its first flight in St. Louis, Mo., where the Growler and Super Hornet assembly lines are located. Check out the video below to see the Australian Growler’s air prowess in action and learn more about Australia’s desire to master the art of electronic deception.

NSA To Halt Searches of Domestic Calls Database, Purge Records

“Analysts at the National Security Agency will no longer be permitted to search a database holding five years of Americans’ domestic calling records after Nov. 29,” The New York Times reports.

“Legislation enacted in June barred the N.S.A. from collecting Americans’ calling records after 180 days, but did not say what would happen to the data already gathered. Under a new system laid out by the USA Freedom Act, the government will not hold the bulk data, which is used to analyze links between callers in search of terrorism suspects.”

“On Monday, the intelligence office said in a statement that N.S.A. analysts would lose access to the old database after Nov. 29, but that N.S.A. technicians would still be able to view the historical records for an additional three months. That will allow them to compare the data to the calling records produced under the new system.”

“The N.S.A. said that it planned to then purge the records, but that it must wait for a resolution to lawsuits challenging the program. A court has ordered the N.S.A. to preserve records relevant to the litigation.”

Sanctions Are No Silver Bullet

Peter Feaver and Eric Lorber: “Since 2005, U.S. policymakers have increasingly turned to sophisticated types of economic sanctions as a foreign policy tool of first resort. From the development of banking sanctions limiting Iran’s ability to secure financing from Western capital markets to new sanctions targeting Russia’s financial system and the development of its oil resources, U.S. policymakers have touted these innovative tools as extremely powerful while also being tailored and precise.”

“But while these sophisticated sanctions have imposed substantial economic costs on Iran and Russia and do collectively constitute a more capable tool for coercive diplomacy, the developing narrative—likely to be bolstered by what the Obama administration sees as successful coercive diplomacy against Iran—that increasingly sophisticated sanctions provide policymakers with a no-cost silver bullet for addressing intractable national security issues is wrong.”

Turkey Opens Airbases to U.S. Campaign Against ISIS

“In what may prove a turning point in the fight against Islamic State (Isis), Turkey has struck a military and security cooperation pact with the US that could greatly enhance the effectiveness of coalition air strikes,” The Guardian reports.

“[T]he new understanding with Washington may go much further than simply allowing US (and British) use of the Incirlik airbase in Adana from early August. Incirlik will give coalition aircraft a huge advantage. Instead of flying 2,000km from bases and carriers in the Gulf, they will now be within 400km range of Raqqa, the Isis headquarters in Syria, giving them much greater operational flexibility and scope.”

“But Turkish reports suggest the agreement also covers the ‘emergency’ use by allied aircraft of other Turkish airbases, including those in the south-eastern provinces of Batman, Diyarbakır and Malatya, plus more general permission to use Turkish airspace. It seems another longstanding US proposal, to fly armed or surveillance drones out of Turkey, has also been accepted.”

Echo Seeker Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Explores Deeper, Stays Longer

Unmanned underwater vehicles are exploring deeper below the ocean surface than ever before. The unmanned underwater vehicle Echo Ranger began operations in 2001 and continues today as an operational test bed and contracted work system for ocean surveys. Following three years of designing, building and testing the vehicle, Boeing’s Advanced Technology Program team in Huntington Beach, Calif., just unveiled Echo Ranger’s bigger brother – the Echo Seeker.

Echo Seeker enables ocean access capabilities beyond those of Echo Rangeroffering potential customers a larger UUV with increased depth, endurance and payload capabilities. Echo Seeker’s ability to dive to depths deeper than other submersibles makes it unique, but one of the most significant team accomplishments is the systems’ autonomy.

Operating at 20,000 feet, the vehicle must be able to determine how and when to quit – either when energy is nearly depleted or if a problem occurs – and return safely to the surface; that is an approximately four-mile journey with no human interaction.

Having completed initial testing and verified full vehicle functionality, the next steps for Echo Seeker include payload evaluation and other potential survey studies/projects similar to the one Echo Ranger completed earlier this year with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Echo Ranger was used to survey the former USS Independence, a World War II aircraft carrier that was scuttled 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Learn more about Boeing’s Echo Seeker here.

Iran Debate Ignores The Lessons of Iraq

Peter Beinart: “In most televised discussions of Iran, the word ‘Iraq’ never comes up, and that’s insane. The Iraq War was one of the most important, and damaging, episodes in the history of U.S. foreign policy. The debate preceding it pitted people who believed Saddam Hussein was malevolent but rational against people who believed he might well nuke the United States. It pitted people who trusted that International Atomic Energy Agency inspections could contain Saddam’s nuclear program against people who thought he would build a nuke under the IAEA’s nose. Most fundamentally, it pitted people who believed that the only way to keep America safe was to force Iraq’s utter capitulation, via regime change, against people who preferred an imperfect accommodation that did not risk war.”

“Obviously, the circumstances in Iraq and Iran are different. And smart people may offer smart explanations for why the demand for capitulation that proved so disastrous in America’s dealings with Iraq is well-suited to America’s dealings with the country on Iraq’s eastern border. My point is merely this: These people should be required to offer those explanations.”

“Again and again, pundits who championed the invasion of Iraq—people like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer—appear on television advocating the same worldview they advocated in 2002 and 2003, and get to pretend that nothing has happened over the last 15 years to throw that worldview into question… To a degree that will baffle historians, the political-intellectual complex that made the Iraq War possible remains intact, and powerful.”

Longer U.S. Presence in Iraq Might Have Prevented ISIS, Says Odierno

“The Army’s top officer, who spent more than four years as a commander in Iraq, said it’s been ‘frustrating’ to see Iraq ‘falling apart’ at the hands of the Islamic State terror group,” writes Army Times.

“Odierno, who commanded a division and a corps in Iraq before becoming the top U.S. commander in country, spoke to Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin as he prepares to complete his tenure as chief and retire from the Army.”

“It’s impossible to know how Iraq would have turned out or if keeping U.S. troops in Iraq would have stopped the rise of the Islamic State group, Odierno said. ‘I believe that, I think, maybe, if we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have prevented it,’ he told Fox News.”

FBI Director: Terror Groups Looking to Cyber Capabilities

“Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said Wednesday that terrorist groups had begun discussing ways to hit Americans with a cyberattack, though he said plotting appeared to be in early stages,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mr. Comey didn’t divulge what sort of cyberattack terrorist groups could be trying to design. U.S. officials have spent years trying to protect things like water-treatment plants, electrical grids, and the banking system from debilitating cyberattacks, but they remain wary because criminal gangs and sophisticated nation-state hackers have proven adept at breaking through networks.”

“Mr. Comey made clear that cyberattacks remained a major focus for the FBI, both in monitoring hacks against companies and investigating attacks against U.S. government agencies.”

GPS Leaps Forward with Latest Satellite Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V blasts off from Cape Canaveral with the GPS IIF-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force. (United Launch Alliance photo)

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V blasts off from Cape Canaveral with the GPS IIF-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force. (United Launch Alliance photo)

When the 10th GPS IIF satellite, which was launched on July 15, completes on-orbit checkout tests, the U.S. Air Force will further advance a modernization program for the Global Positioning System. This will improve accuracy and enhance security for the navigation system used daily by millions of people around the world. The 10th GPS IIF satellite joins a constellation of satellites that circle the earth to provide the position, navigation and timing information that is the heart of GPS.

The Boeing-built GPS IIFs are the newest generation of GPS satellites, delivering a longer design life, greater accuracy, increased signal power for civil applications, a more robust military M-code signal and variable power for better jamming resistance. The IIFs also are outfitted with the new civilian L-5 signal which, when fully operational, will be used for emergency applications.

The GPS IIF-10 satellite is loaded on a C-17 Globemaster III for transport to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The GPS IIF-10 satellite is loaded on a C-17 Globemaster III for transport to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

GPS IIF-10 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V expendable launch vehicle at 11:36 a.m. EDT. About three hours and 23 minutes later, the spacecraft was released into its medium-Earth orbit of about 12,000 miles.

Boeing will support the Air Force in performing on-orbit checkout of GPS IIF-10 before it is formally declared operational in about a month. The next GPS satellite, GPS IIF-11, was shipped to Cape Canaveral on June 8 in preparation for the third and final IIF launch of 2015 later this fall.

 

Obama “Will Veto” Defense Bill Over Guantanamo Transfer Restrictions

“‘The president will veto it.’ Those words aren’t spoken very often in just that way from the podium in the White House briefing room, but they were today by Press Secretary Josh Earnest,” writes Steven Dennis. “This time, the message seems to be that the president really, finally does mean business when it comes to closing the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.”

“Earnest, who also said the administration is close to having a plan to close the prison ready to send to Congress, said the president strongly opposes any language inhibiting his ability to do so… Obama has threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act year after year over language that effectively prevents him from closing the prison. And every year he’s signed it. But this year could be different, especially if Congress can get a bill to Obama quickly. That could give Congress time to either override a veto or pass another bill that can get the president’s signature.”

Noah Feldman: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, isn’t going to be closed during President Barack Obama’s administration — or beyond, despite the administration’s efforts. That raises a deep question about foreign policy and the rule of law: What if Guantanamo never closes, and some of its detainees remain there for the rest of their lives?”

U.S. Likely Won’t Publicly Blame China for OPM Hack

“Months after the discovery of a massive breach of U.S. government personnel records, the Obama administration has decided against publicly blaming China for the intrusion in part out of reluctance to reveal the evidence that American investigators have assembled,” according to The Washington Post.

“The administration also appears to have refrained from any direct retaliation against China or attempt to use cyber-measures to corrupt or destroy the stockpile of sensitive data stolen from the Office of Personnel Management.”

“The response to penetrations targeting government-held data has been more restrained, in part because U.S. officials regard such breaches as within the traditional parameters of espionage. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and others have even expressed grudging admiration for the OPM hack, saying U.S. spy agencies would do the same against other governments. Economic espionage occupies a separate category — supposedly off-limits to U.S. spy agencies and seen as deserving of a forceful response when committed by foreign adversaries.”

“In making such a distinction, the United States may be adhering to unwritten rules that other countries disregard. The administration risks sending a signal that it is willing to go further to defend the secrets of U.S. industry than it is to protect employees of federal agencies.”

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