Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
September 2, 2014

NATO Considers Rapid Response Force for Eastern Europe

The New York Times reports that “as Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of ‘a great war’ with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, officials of the alliance said.”

“The new force of some 4,000 troops, capable of moving on 48 hours’ notice, will be supported with logistics and equipment pre-positioned in Eastern European countries closer to Russia, with an upgraded schedule of military exercises and deployments that are intended to make NATO’s commitment of collective defense more credible and enhance its deterrence.”

“The agreement is planned as the substantive centerpiece of the NATO meeting, which will take place Thursday and Friday and will be attended by President Obama, who will also stop in Estonia before the summit meeting. His aides said the trip was intended to highlight the United States’ commitment to NATO, and the alliance’s determination to protect all 28 members from aggression — from Moscow or elsewhere.”

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Might U.S. Defense Budget Gain from Global Threats?

Defense News reports that “President Barack Obama put the Islamic State terrorist group on the “varsity” team of US foes. America’s top general, Martin Dempsey, has spoken of the group’s ‘apocalyptic’ visions.”

“And Defense Secrectary Chuck Hagel has said the Pentagon might have to retool its $555 billion 2015 budget proposal to account for the threats posed by and actions taken against the Islamic State.”

The piece continues: “Defense insiders are abuzz about the prospect of a congressional mea culpa on defense spending. The collective hope stems from a world picture that suddenly includes several burgeoning threats that were on Obama’s ‘junior varsity’ list at the start of the year.”

Preview: The Wales NATO Summit

Stars and Stripes reports that “the two-day NATO summit that opens Thursday in Wales was supposed to be focused on tying up loose ends in Afghanistan and guarding against complacency as the 28-nation alliance shifted from a war footing.”

“Things have changed since planning for the high-level conference began in late 2013. Though NATO remains on course to end its combat mission in Afghanistan later this year and leaders will still be discussing the alliance’s future role there, the security landscape in NATO’s backyard has undergone its most profound shift in 25 years. Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine earlier this year and subsequent backing of pro-Russian separatists have caught the alliance off guard.”

“’This is the most important summit since the end of the Cold War. If it flunks this now, it would be difficult to see how it would recover its reputation,’ said Jonathan Eyal, director of security studies at the Royal United Services Institute. ‘The reputation of NATO is on the line.’”

GMD: Defending America’s Homeland

The mission of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system can be explained rather easily: detect, track, intercept and destroy ballistic missiles before they can reach our shores. The technical challenge of accomplishing this, however, is one of the hardest in aerospace. After all, the system comprises 22,000 miles of fiber optic cable, assets in 15 times zones and coordination across multiple land, sea and space-based radars and sensors. The system must process all this information in a time-limited window and destroy a rapidly moving target, essentially “hitting a bullet with a bullet.”

It makes successes like its last intercept of a realistic target this summer, all the more impressive. Through this system, a Boeing-led industry team was proud to support the Missile Defense Agency and our Nation’s men and women in uniform who stand trained and ready to execute their mission around the clock.

Check out this video about the recent GMD intercept:

Challenges to Recruiting an All-Volunteer Army

WBUR’s “Here & Now” reports that “the U.S. Army has been an all-volunteer force for more than 40 years because there is no military draft anymore. That means the service has to attract young men and women to sign up.”

“And according to the Army’s numbers they’re pretty good at it. The Army has met or exceeded its recruiting goals for each of the last nine years.”

“But the man who runs the Army recruiting operation, Major General Allen Batschelet, tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti that finding qualified candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can be difficult.”

“’Today about 15 percent are disqualified for obesity, and we think by 2020 that number could go to 50 percent,’ he said.”

Report: Training Injuries Triple at GA Army Base

The Augusta (GA) Chronicle reports that “the death of a Mississippi national guardsman at Fort Gordon this month highlights a growing trend of training injuries on military posts that one Army doctor said could be solved by soldiers modifying fitness routines and not pushing themselves to get into peak physical condition.”

“In the past four years, training injuries have more than tripled at Fort Gordon, climbing from 21 in 2011 and 2012 to 77 in 2013 and 2014, according to statistics kept by the Army Combat Readiness and Safety Center in Alabama.”

“Though data show that most of the injuries are minor accidents that occur during physical training exercises, reports reveal the incidents can lead to potentially career-compromising burns, fractures, breaks, muscle tears, head trauma, dislocated joints and even death.”

US Military Will Send Tanks To East Europe for Drills

Defense News reports that “US Army troops equipped with tanks will head to Eastern Europe soon to reassure NATO allies anxious over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Pentagon officials said Thursday.”

“About 600 troops from the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division are due to deploy in October to Poland and the Baltic states for training exercises with alliance members, replacing paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, said spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman.”

“’It’s a three-month rotation,’ Hillman said. The drills are ‘focused on small unit and leader training.’”

Boeing Commercial Crew Program Completes Critical Design and Safety Reviews

Boeing recently completed the Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and the Critical Design Review (CDR) of its integrated systems, meeting all of the company’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) milestones on time and on budget.

CST-100_docking_crop

Photo credit: Boeing

Completed in July, the CDR milestone marks a significant step in reaching the ultimate design that will be used for the spacecraft, launch vehicle and related systems. Propulsion, software, avionics, landing, power and docking systems were among 44 individual CDRs conducted as part of the broader review.

The CST-100 is being developed as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to make crew transportation systems available for low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station by 2017. The capsule could accommodate up to seven crew members or a mix of crew and cargo and features a weld less structure, wireless internet and Boeing LED “Sky Lighting” technology.

The Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review included an overall hazard analysis of the spacecraft, identifying life-threatening situations and ensuring that the current design mitigated any safety risks.

Watch this video on America’s first space taxi:

More information about the future of human space exploration can be found at www.beyondearth.com.

Feature: History of Tanks

Stars and Stripes provides a very interesting history of tanks, from WWI through today.

How U.S. Military Could Become Trans-Inclusive

Smithsonian Magazine reports that “the U.S. Defense Department may have reversed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay service personnel, but transgender individuals serving in the military still need to keep their identity a secret or face dismissal. However, changing that policy would not be difficult or burdensome, a new study finds.”

“The report, issued by the Palm Center, a San Francisco think tank that researches issues of gender and sexuality in the military, looked at 18 other countries that currently allow transgender individuals to serve and at the U.S. military’s experience integrating gay, lesbian and bi people. Based on its findings, the center came up with what it thinks could be a roadmap to eliminating the ban on transgender service.”

“Already, an estimated 15,500 transgender individuals are actively serving, and another 134,000 are veterans, according to earlier research from the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles Law School.”

Obama on ISIS: ‘We Don’t Have a Strategy’

President Barack Obama said Thursday it’s premature to go to Congress to authorize a strategy to defeat ISIS — because he doesn’t have one yet, Roll Call reports.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama told reporters after being asked about striking ISIS in Syria, saying he didn’t want to “put the cart before the horse.”

The line — sure to be repeated often by his critics — came as Republicans have been repeatedly demanding a strategy to defeat ISIS.

Obama said he’s asked the military for options to take on ISIS, but a decision to expand strikes into Syria isn’t imminent and he suggested it would not happen before Congress returns from recess.

Singing Torpedoes to Sleep

Nixie, a siren-like creature of European legends, is said to sing a sweet song that entrances listeners and lures them away. Boeing’s modern-day ‘Nixie,’ or the AN/SLQ-25, sings its sweet lullaby confusing the torpedo’s sensors as it mimics the acoustic signature of the surface ship it protects. As the torpedo is lured away from the ship and its crew, it falls into a peaceful slumber at the bottom of the sea as its fuel is depleted.

Boeing subsidiary Argon ST has been providing navies around the world with the Nixie surface ship torpedo defense system for more than a decade, delivering more than 400 systems to the US Navy and coalition partners worldwide. This summer, the company enters a new chapter in producing high-end acoustics and anti-submarine warfare capabilities by bringing production of the voice of the Nixie system, the singing towed counter measure, in-house for the first time.

With this move, Argon ST expands into a whole new line of work to support Nixie customers with additional towed body repair capabilities and modernization of existing devices. In addition to opening doors to new innovation of the Nixie system through enhancements to the towed acoustics counter measure, the company is better positioned to expand system capabilities to new sensor payloads beyond torpedo defense to meet future customer and mission requirements.

Find out more about Nixie system’s potentially life-saving noise in this video:

Obama Senses Need to Gain Congressional OK Before Syria Strikes

Defense News reports that “pressure from the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue is mounting on President Barack Obama to seek congressional approval before launching military strikes inside Syria.”

“White House and Pentagon officials reportedly are mulling how and what the US military could hit in Syria to weaken the Islamic State, a violent extremist group that has seized much of northern Iraq and slaughtered minorities.”

“The debate around striking on Syrian soil comes almost exactly one year after lawmakers returned early from an August recess to craft a use-of-force resolution aimed at helping rebel forces there in a years-long fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.”

VA Showed Veterans as ‘Oscar the Grouch’

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs depicted dissatisfied veterans as Oscar the Grouch in a recent internal training guide, and some vets and VA staffers said Tuesday that they feel trashed.”

“The cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a garbage can was used in reference to veterans who will attend town-hall events Wednesday in Philadelphia.

“‘There is no time or place to make light of the current crisis that the VA is in,’ said Joe Davis, a national spokesman for the VFW. ‘And especially to insult the VA’s primary customer.’”

“The 18-page slide show on how to help veterans with their claims, presented to VA employees Friday and obtained by The Inquirer, also says veterans might be demanding and unrealistic and tells VA staffers to apologize for the ‘perception’ of the agency.”

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