Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
May 3, 2015

Navy Needs to Rethink New Persian Gulf Fleet

David Axe argues that the Navy’s plan to replace the Cyclone-class patrol boats in the Persian Gulf with the new multi-mission Littoral Combat Ship is a mistake.

“Each multi-mission Littoral Combat Ship was supposed to cost a little over $200 million, but the actual price today is more than twice that. The ship is meant to be equally adept at hunting for sea mines and fighting submarines and surface ships, but it’s too lightly armed for any one of those tasks. It is also more than twice as long as a Cyclone and 10 times heavier, yet comes equipped with only slightly more weaponry.”

“It just so happens that Bollinger Shipyards, the same Louisiana shipyard that built the Cyclones, is building Sentinel-class boats for the Coast Guard that are roughly the same size as the Navy vessels, far more modern and reasonably priced at just $70 million a boat. If the Navy bought 10 fewer Littoral ships and acquired 10 new patrol boats for $70 million apiece instead, it would represent a net savings of more than $3 billion in ship construction costs while also boosting national security.”

Poison Pill Amendments Threaten Prospects of Iran Bill

“Sens. Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio used a hardball procedural tactic on Thursday to force contentious votes on a bill allowing congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, a move that jeopardizes the measure’s future,” according to Politico.

“After being blocked by Democrats for several days, Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rubio (R-Fla.) used a parliamentary procedure to try to compel votes on amendments that would make Iran relinquish its nuclear facilities before getting economic sanctions relief and require that Iran recognize Israel’s statehood as a condition of any nuclear deal.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “and his deputies have taken a hands-off approach and delegated much of the floor management to Corker and Cardin, but a number of GOP lawmakers, including presidential contenders like Rubio, have battled for votes on provisions that could unravel the coalition backing the bill if they were adopted.”

“On Wednesday evening, the Senate killed a proposal from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) that would require that President Barack Obama certify that Iran is not sponsoring terrorism against Americans.”

As US-Japan Ties Strengthen, Obama Says China Shouldn’t Worry

“President Obama said Tuesday that China has “benefited” from the U.S. presence in Asia and rejected the notion that new defense guidelines between the United States and Japan should be viewed as a provocation in Beijing,” according to The Washington Post.

“Obama’s remarks came a day after the United States and Japan announced a revised defense agreement that would allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to take a more active role in regional security. The changes, which are relatively modest, allow Japan to act when U.S. forces are threatened by a third country.”

B-1 Bomber Fleet Celebrates 30 Years

The U.S. Air Force’s B-1 bomber fleet marks its 30th anniversary with a celebration this weekend at Dyess AFB, Abilene, Texas. First rolled out in June 1985, the Boeing B-1 is a supersonic bomber that has long been the backbone of America’s bomber fleet because of its versatility in today’s battlespace. The B-1, with wings based at Ellsworth and Dyess AFB, performs missions in Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Boeing also maintains the nation’s fleet of B-52 bombers.

The U.S. Air Force B-1 fleet has transitioned from being a strategic nuclear-deterrent to its current role as a conventional bomber, a change the USAF completed in 1990s. Between 2006 and 2008, as bombers increasingly performed close air support for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Boeing integrated the sniper targeting pod to the B-1, resulting in increased effectiveness and safety.

The nation’s 62 B-1 bombers will continue to have a major role in the defense of our nation for decades to come, as it continues to be modernized. Boeing’s latest upgrades include an “integrated battle station” that features fully digital cockpit displays. This upgrade also provides greater situational awareness, agility, and improved targeting capabilities.

Check out this video about maintaining the B-1 fleet for 30 years:

Air Force May Delay F-35 Deployment if Congress Blocks A-10 Retirement

“The House Armed Services Committee inserted $683 million into the 2016 defense bill to stop the Air Force from retiring the A-10 Warthog. However, Air Force leaders said the service will have to mothball F-16s and delay the deployment of the F-35 in response to the move by the committee,” reports.

“The Air Force has been considering plans to move some maintenance professionals from the A-10 program to the F-35.  However, this effort might be complicated if the proposed HASC marks hold up through the ongoing Congressional review process.”

“While quick to praise the A-10’s service record, Air Force officials have consistently maintained that other aircraft, including the developing F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, will be able to perform close-air support missions.”

Good or Bad, Is the Iran Nuclear Framework Workable?

Michael Singh argues that “three design flaws” in the framework agreement between Iran and world powers “may ultimately spell its doom regardless of who succeeds Barack Obama as president.”

“First, the framework narrowly addresses Iran’s nuclear activities rather than the full range of disputes between Iran and the United States. At one level, this is understandable: Resolving the nuclear crisis is difficult enough without also having to address Iran’s support for terrorism and destabilizing regional activities. But this approach presumes that these issues can truly be disentangled from one another.”

“Second, the deal is sure to roil regional dynamics regardless of progress in Iran or between the U.S. and Iran. Critics have asserted that the absence of a requirement in the framework that Tehran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure implies that the Obama administration is gambling on the Iranian leadership becoming friendlier over the next decade. Yet Iran’s threshold nuclear capability poses a problem whether or not its relations with the U.S. improve.”

“Third, the deal may prove unstable and ultimately unsustainable regardless of who next occupies the Oval Office. It is likely that U.S. oil and financial sanctions will initially be waived rather than lifted because the up-front steps required of Iran are not sufficient, and not sufficiently irreversible, to merit immediate lifting of sanctions. This means that President Obama–and his successor and possibly that person’s successor–will need to certify Iranian compliance and reaffirm the suspension of sanctions every six months.”

Carter Pushes to Renew Collaboration Between Military, Industry, Academia

“Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, an admirable mix of theoretical physicist and medieval historian, is trying to reconstruct the collaboration between the academic world, industry and government that existed in World War II and the Cold War but appears to have died out in recent years,” according to The Washington Post.

“The globalization of military technology, the growth of cyber and electronic warfare, and the rise of non-state actors make renewing collaboration essential, he said… Carter described a series of private-sector achievements that were rooted in defense research projects — starting with the Internet itself but also including technologies that Apple integrated into the iPhone.”

New Test Stations Ensure Faster Aircraft Avionics Components Testing

Boeing and its U.S. Navy customers recently celebrated a newly upgraded piece of ground-support equipment that will enable faster and more efficient testing of aircraft avionics components. The Navy unveiled an upgraded version of the Reconfigurable Transportable Consolidated Automated Support System (RTCASS) automated test station recently at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. This new configuration is known as RTCASS-D — the D stands for “depot” — is designed to aid military maintainers in diagnosing problems with combat aircraft while also consolidating depot-level testing into a single test station.

For the Navy’s fleet-readiness centers, the RTCASS-D will enable maintainers to test and troubleshoot electronic systems on platforms like the F/A-18 Hornet, V-22 Osprey, AV-8B Harrier, EA-6B Prowler aircraft and the rest of the Navy and Marines Corps aviation platforms in a more efficient and cost-saving manner, program officials said. Boeing is under contract to produce 10 RTCASS-D stations, nine of which are scheduled to be deployed at fleet-readiness centers this year.

Drone Accidents Are the Symptom, Not the Disease

Daphne Eviatar argues that “the accidental killings of two innocent hostages by US drones in Pakistan… and of the two other al-Qaeda-affiliated Americans who weren’t specifically targeted, is the logical consequence not simply of the US drone program, but of the murky definition of a war against an ever-changing terrorist organization and its ever-growing and shifting affiliates.”

“One consequence of the heavy reliance on drones in places like Pakistan and Yemen, where the US is apparently conducting a war but not really admitting it, is that we’ve seen a complete abdication of responsibility by Americans for the consequences of the wars we’re fighting. The President isn’t talking about those wars, except in the rare instance when verifiably innocent Westerners are inadvertently killed, and Congress has abdicated its responsibility to oversee them.”

“So long as the president and Congress leave in place the legal authorization for a worldwide war against an uncertain and ill-defined enemy, there will be innocent civilians killed. To be sure, most of them won’t be Americans or even Westerners, and we therefore won’t hear much about them, if at all. We certainly won’t hear many more apologies. But equally innocent people will continue to be killed, without a clear connection to a specific goal.”

Declassified Report Questions Value of Warrantless Wiretaps

The New York Times has a newly declassified report from the inspectors general of the CIA, NSA, Justice Department, Defense Department, and Director of National Intelligence finding that the “secrecy surrounding the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 warrantless surveillance and bulk data collection program hampered its effectiveness, and many members of the intelligence community later struggled to identify any specific terrorist attacks it thwarted.

“The document is a lengthy report on a once secret N.S.A. program code-named Stellarwind… The report amounts to a detailed history of the program. While significant parts remain classified, it includes some new information. For example, it explains how the Bush administration came to tell the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Royce C. Lamberth, about the program’s existence in early 2002.”

“The report said that the secrecy surrounding the program made it less useful. Very few working-level C.I.A. analysts were told about it. After the warrantless wiretapping part became public, Congress legalized it in 2007; the report said this should have happened earlier to remove ‘the substantial restrictions placed on F.B.I. agents’ and analysts’ access to and use of program-derived information due to the highly classified status’ of Stellarwind.”

US Could Allow Families of Hostages to Pay Ransom

“Families of American hostages who communicate with foreign kidnappers or raise money and pay ransoms will no longer have to fear prosecution for aiding terrorist groups, a White House-ordered advisory group on U.S. hostage policy is expected to recommend,” according to ABC News.

“The study undertaken by the National Counterterrorism Center on orders from the Obama White House has involved interviewing many of those with tragic experience such as the parents of journalist James Foley, who were among several families alleging they were repeatedly threatened by administration officials with prosecution last summer for moving to raise millions in ransom demanded by ISIS and other groups in Syria”

Surveying the former USS Independence on the Ocean Floor

Echo Ranger undergoes pier side testing at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, Calif.  (Boeing Photo)

Echo Ranger undergoes pier side testing at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, Calif. (Boeing Photo)

Autonomous underwater vehicles are expanding the realm of the possible in oceanic exploration and knowledge. Diving to depths untouched, they use sonar and other technologies to explore crevices, map the ocean floor and make new discoveries in seeing what lies beneath the surface.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently partnered with Boeing and Coda Octopus to re-discover and survey the former USS Independence, a World War II aircraft carrier that was scuttled by the U.S. Navy in 1951 and has been resting peacefully on the ocean floor just 30 miles off the coast of Half-Moon Bay, California, ever since.

Echo Ranger, Boeing’s bright yellow autonomous submersible, dove 2,600 feet deep to capture new sonar imaging of the ship to date, using Coda Octopus’ 3D Sonar imaging technology. NOAA now has better sonar imaging of this ship than ever before and will use this information to study the ship and the surrounding environment to learn more about how the ship has fared over the last 64 years.

As this technology continues to advance, the possible achievements in the world of marine and ocean science will continue to amaze.

Watch this video of Echo Ranger’s sonar mapping mission of the USS Independence to see it in action:

US Commandos Train Locals in Over 80 Countries

“These days, the sun never sets on America’s special-operations forces,” writes The Wall Street Journal. “Over the past year, they have landed in 81 countries, most of them training local commandos to fight so American troops don’t have to.”

“Driving the idea are 14 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and the on-again-off-again battle in Iraq, expensive land wars that have sapped the political support of many Americans. At the same time, the U.S. faces threats from such free-range terror networks as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen; Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Most of these militants have no borders, instead concealing themselves among civilians disaffected with their own corrupt or inept rulers.”

“Anti-extremist campaigns often push U.S. special operators into spheres once strictly the realm of civilians, combining tactical training with social and economic outreach. American psychological-operations soldiers helped build a jungle radio network in Uganda, South Sudan and Central African Republic to encourage defections among Lord’s Resistance Army fighters. Special-operations civil-affairs teams, based in American embassies in three-dozen countries, work with U.S. diplomats and development experts to improve such public services as water supply to stoke the popularity of governments friendly to U.S. interests.”

Guantanamo Transfers Stall

“While some in the Obama administration are eager to resume transfers of detainees from Guantánamo this summer, none of the mechanisms are yet in place to move even one of the 122 captives now held at the detention center in southeast Cuba,” according to The Miami Herald.

“As of Thursday, Congress had received no 30-day transfer notices, a statutory prerequisite… Not a single transfer packet has made its way through the Pentagon bureaucracy to the desk of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter… Carter, who replaced Hagel Feb. 17, has to personally approve each transfer — and has yet to see his first.”

“Some administration officials are impatient to resume the transfers, in part, because military commanders have argued that a prolonged standstill stokes tension at the prison in Cuba, and participation in the long-running prison hunger strike. The military refuses to say how many captives are currently on hunger strike.”

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