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September 23, 2014

DOD Shifts Information Focus from Afghanistan to Iraq

Stars and Stripes reports that “as the Obama administration seeks to win support for a coalition campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, the White House and the Defense Department public relations shops have gone into overdrive.”

“In recent weeks, the military has released near daily tallies of airstrikes in Iraq, often detailing how many targets were hit and what type of vehicle was destroyed. Those reports have frequently been pushed out again by the Defense Department and the National Security Council.”

“It’s a level of detail that has conspicuously vanished from public reporting on America’s other war: Afghanistan.”

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Despite Congress Budget Battle, U.S. Navy Faces 3 Big Decisions

Defense News reports that “Congress again is hung up on a budget, but lawmakers have left town to fight the midterm elections, leaving the Pentagon to wait and see what happens in one budget year before it can nail down the next. Meanwhile, there’s work to do, and the US Navy has several major decision points coming up — questions that need to be decided regardless what Congress ultimately comes up with.”

“At the top of the decision list sit three programs: the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS); the Small Surface Combatant (SSC) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). A decision on how to skew UCLASS — toward surveillance or strike — had been expected by the end of summer. But with Pentagon officials unable to reach a consensus, it has been punted off into a murky future.”

Pentagon Seeks Information Military’s NFL Ties

CNN reports that “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for detailed information about the U.S. military’s relationships with the National Football League in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic-abuse allegations against players, CNN has learned.”

“News of the Pentagon review comes on the same day a senior Obama administration official decried recent domestic abuse episodes within the NFL and said the league needs to “get a handle on” the situation since so many professional athletes are considered role models to younger players.”

“The Pentagon is increasingly sensitive to any suggestion it is supporting a major sports organization that is perceived to tolerate domestic violence.”

Excitement for the Journey Beyond Earth is Building

Boeing and NASA employees at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans halted work long enough for a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, the Vertical Assembly Center. Now they are eager to get back to work building the world’s largest rocket. The 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide giant completes the unique tool set that will be used to build the core stage of America’s next great rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS) – the heavy-lift, exploration class rocket under development to take humans beyond Earth orbit and to Mars.

NASA photo

NASA photo

“It’s great to have everyone here to celebrate with us, but we’re more excited to start welding,” said Patricia Key, who managed the VAC project. Building out the facility means a great deal to most of the employees working on SLS as many of them supported the International Space Station, Space Shuttle and other space programs. Michoud employees built the fuel tanks for the Space Shuttle, too. So they know big rockets.

The core stage will tower more than 200 feet tall (61 meters) with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters), and is designed to store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

Boeing, under contract with NASA to design, develop, and manufacture the SLS core stages and avionics of SLS, worked for more than two years to build out the facility. Work among other NASA industry contractors also continues on the engines, boosters, and ground systems. Friday’s event signaled the beginning of the next phase of rocket development – all systems go!

NASA officials also recently announced they have completed a rigorous review of the SLS and approved the program’s progression from formulation to development, something no other exploration class vehicle has achieved since the agency built the space shuttle.

Check out this video about the world’s largest spacecraft welding tool:

Visit Beyond Earth to find out more about the journey beyond Earth orbit and to Mars.

How Far Can U.S. Go in Iraq, Syria?

Reuters reports that “as America re-engages with Iraq and deepens its involvement in the region’s web of sectarian conflicts, the Pentagon has made a practical assessment of the brutal job of stabilizing Baghdad: in the future, U.S. forces may be needed on the front lines.”

“President Barack Obama has ruled out a combat mission, but military officials and former officials say the reality of a protracted campaign in Iraq and possibly Syria may ultimately require greater use of U.S. troops, including tactical air strike spotters or front-line advisers embedded with Iraq forces.”

“That raises questions over how far Obama can go in the expanding U.S. military power without appearing to violate promises not to drag America into another ground war and highlights different priorities between the White House and Pentagon at the start of what looks to be a long, unpredictable military campaign in Iraq and Syria.”

USAF Withdraws ‘So Help Me God’ Requirement from Oath

Air Force Times reports that “the Air Force has withdrawn a requirement that all airmen who take the oath of enlistment and officer appointment conclude with “so help me God,” the service announced Wednesday.”

“The Air Force previously allowed airmen to omit those words, but removed that option in October based on its interpretation of 10 U.S.C. 502, 5 U.S.C. 3331 and Title 32, which contain the oaths of office. The Navy, Army and Marine Corps allow their service members to omit ‘so help me God,’ spokesmen for all three services told Air Force Times last week.”

“The Air Force sought a legal review of the rule by the Defense Department’s General Counsel on Sept. 9, five days after the American Humanist Association announced it was representing an unnamed atheist airman, stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, who was denied reenlistment for refusing to say, or sign a form, stating ‘so help me God.’”

European Military Outlook if Scotland Votes ‘Yes’

Stars and Stripes reports that “Britain will have to seek alternative locations for its nuclear submarines should Scotland vote for independence Thursday if NATO is to maintain a nuclear deterrent with more than just U.S. firepower.”

Britain has no existing infrastructure capable of meeting the security requirements for hosting nuclear warheads and the submarines that can fire them except for the Scottish base in Faslane, experts say.”

“’The problem is, there are no easy alternatives,’ said Angus Ross, a retired Royal Navy commander and professor at the U.S. Naval War College.”

Boeing and DLA Embark on 10-year Logistics Partnership

image002Back in 2012, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) sent out a call to industry for “big ideas” to reduce costs by 20 percent and improve overall supply performance. Boeing responded, and will take the lead on several of the procurement processes now with the government for tactical, rotorcraft, surveillance and cargo aircraft.

Boeing received a $293 million performance-based contract this week for aircraft parts and support from DLA, which supplies the United States’ military’s logistical, acquisition and technical services with parts from screws to spare jet wings. The contract includes support for 11 different aircraft: the AH-64, AV-8, B-1, B-52, C-17, CH-47, E-3, E-6, F-15, F/A-18, KC-135 and ground support equipment.

Together, DLA and Boeing will continue collaborating on new ways to streamline processes, enhance performance and improve affordability as they begin this long-term partnership.

New Combat Questions Around U.S. Military Role in Iraq

The Associated Press reports that “the White House and the Pentagon are grappling with how to explain what American military forces are doing and could do in Iraq as they battle the Islamic State militants.”

“Speaking at U.S. Central Command on Wednesday, President Barack Obama reiterated his pledge to keep American troops out of combat missions. But hours later, Vice President Joe Biden appeared to be less certain about ground troops.”

“‘We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes,”‘ Biden told reporters in Iowa.”

“Biden’s remarks echoed comments a day earlier from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, who said he may, if necessary, recommend to the president that U.S. ground forces accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against Islamic State targets, particularly in certain complex missions or if there were threats to the U.S.”

Senate Learns that Chinese Hacked U.S. Military Contractors

Reuters reports that “hackers associated with the Chinese government have repeatedly infiltrated the computer systems of U.S. airlines, technology companies and other contractors involved in the movement of U.S. troops and military equipment, a U.S. Senate panel has found.”

“The Senate Armed Services Committee’s year-long probe, concluded in March but made public on Wednesday, found the military’s U.S. Transportation Command, or Transcom, was aware of only two out of at least 20 such cyber intrusions within a single year.”

“The investigation also found gaps in reporting requirements and a lack of information sharing among U.S. government entities. That in turn left the U.S. military largely unaware of computer compromises of its contractors.”

Report: U.S. May Delay USAF Cuts in Europe

Stars and Stripes reports that “planned cuts to the U.S. military presence in Europe may be postponed because of concerns about Russian aggression, according to top defense officials.”

“’Currently there are changes to overseas forces on the books,’ but ‘I have talked to leadership here about a function to re-address those decisions because those … decisions were clearly made before’ Russia sent its forces into Ukraine, the commander of U.S. European Command told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.”

“’I see this building now moving towards a review of those decisions,’ Gen. Philip Breedlove said.”

NASA Selects Boeing for Next American Passenger Spacecraft

America has traveled to space for more than half a century and now we’re returning passengers to low-Earth orbit on a new spacecraft. NASA selected Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 to transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo to the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit destinations from U.S. soil starting in 2017.

Boeing will build three CST-100s, the first and only spacecraft to achieve Critical Design Review and Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will undergo a pad-abort test in 2016, an uncrewed flight in early 2017, and the first crewed flight to the ISS in mid-2017.

Check out this video about the CST-100 as America continues the dream to explore space:

Also visit Beyond Earth for more information about the latest developments on the space frontier.

Congress Ducks War Authorization Vote

Congress appears set to sprint for the exits after voting to fund President Barack Obama’s new war on ISIS — although not by name — after rejecting a smattering of calls from lawmakers to go on record explicitly debating and authorizing it, reports Roll Call.

The get-out-of-town votes could come Wednesday, as the nation celebrates Constitution Day, the brainchild of the late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was long the defender of Congress’ prerogatives, especially with regard to war.

“Sen. Byrd would be on the floor demanding that the United States Senate fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, which are debate, amend and vote,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one voice in a fairly small bipartisan group pushing unsuccessfully for a full debate and votes on the authorization to use military force before going home. “This is another act of cowardice, which contributes to the low esteem in which we’re held by the American people.”

Dempsey Opens Door to Ground Troops in ISIS Fight

Fox News reports that “Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey addressed the possibility of U.S. ground forces getting involved in the fight against the Islamic State during blunt testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. He said he would consider recommending that option if the international coalition being formed proves ineffective.”

“‘My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward,’ Dempsey said. ‘I believe that will prove true, but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.'”

“The comment is a departure from what Obama vowed in his address to the nation a week ago, and from what the president’s top spokesman said just one day before Dempsey’s testimony. And it marks the latest mixed message to emerge from the administration on the fight against ISIS, which for weeks U.S. military advisers have described in more urgent and dire terms than others in the administration.”

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