Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
May 28, 2015

Northrop Grumman CEO Objects to New Pentagon Acquisition Policy

“Defense industry CEOs rarely criticize Pentagon policies publicly,” writes Defense One, but “Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman, broke that unwritten rule Tuesday when he criticized a new Pentagon rule that requires defense companies to get government approval to spend their own money.”

“Bush voiced his opposition to a provision in the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power acquisition doctrine that requires companies to get a Defense Department sponsor when they conduct independent research-and-development projects.”

“Top Defense Department officials have been pushing firms to spend more of their own money on  research-and-development projects as federal spending is expected to decline. The hope is that these projects could spur new technology that could give the military a cost-saving edge on the battlefield of the future.”

Guantanamo Lawyers No Longer Allowed to Bring Food to Client Meetings

The Miami Herald reports that “a new rule going into effect Wednesday at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba forbids food at legal conferences for the first time in a decade.”

“The prison says the ban is for health and safety reasons, but the move has been criticized by lawyers who argue that breaking bread has been crucial to the coexistence of American attorneys and their captive Guantánamo clients through years in legal limbo.”

“The new rule is the latest long running accommodation withdrawn by prison leadership under the command of Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad, who is likewise ending his year tour there soon. Earlier, Cozad recommended that a Navy nurse face trial for refusing to force-feed detainees, something medical professionals said was a reversal of a promise to not punish military healthcare providers for raising ethical objections. Cozad also implemented a policy of using female guards as escorts at the high-value-detainee prison, something some devout detainees said broke a long-running practice of having male soldiers handle prisoners who raised religious objections to being touched by women.”

White House Blasts Opponents of NSA Reform

“White House press secretary Josh Earnest called the current stall of a National Security Agency reform bill in the Senate ‘grossly irresponsible’ ahead of the expiration of key provisions of the Patriot Act at the end of the month,” National Journal reports.

Said Earnest: “The fact is we have people in the U.S. Senate right now who are playing chicken with this… They are in a situation where they’re going to try to do a two-week extension or a short-term extension on these critical national security authorities, and to play chicken with that is grossly irresponsible.”

First-Ever Commercial Human Spaceflight Mission Awarded

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Boeing was recently awarded its first service flight to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability agreement with NASA. (Boeing photo)

For the first time in human spaceflight history, NASA has contracted with a commercial company for a human spaceflight mission. A recent task order to Boeing’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract includes the company’s first-ever service flight to the International Space Station.

The Commercial Crew program announcement is another step toward restoring America’s ability to launch crew missions to the International Space Station from the United States in 2017. It also builds on Boeing’s nearly 100 years of aerospace and more than 50 years of space flight history.

The Commercial Crew Transportation System is being developed in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program which aims to resume U.S.-based flights to space by 2017. In September 2014, NASA selected Boeing to build and fly the United States’ next passenger spacecraft, the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100. The company has successfully demonstrated to NASA that the Commercial Crew Transportation System has reached design maturity appropriate to proceed to assembly, integration and test activities.

The CST-100 can transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations like the International Space Station (ISS) and the planned Bigelow station.

Visit BeyondEarth.com to stay informed about the latest CST-100 news.

Female Soldiers Wrestle With New Roles

The New York Times writes that “even though women distinguished themselves as leaders and enlisted soldiers” in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “many of them describe struggling with feeling they do not quite belong.”

“Women are 10 times more likely than men to have reported serious sexual harassment. Suicide has been an enormous issue across the military, particularly for white men. But Army data show that the suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14 per 100,000 from 4 per 100,000 back home — unlike the rate for men, which rose more modestly.”

“As social scientists have sought to understand the increased rates of depression and suicide among enlisted women, they have looked at research on other groups at the margins of a culture, whether blacks in the Ivy League, whites attending a nonwhite high school — or women in male professions. And they have found that the mental costs borne by those in the minority are similar. Members of such groups tend to report as many insults and bad days as members of the dominant culture. But compared with the majority, they feel far less secure.”

Civilian-Military Divide Showing Up in Geography

“Multi-generational military families…form the heart of the all-volunteer Army, which increasingly is drawing its ranks from the relatively small pool of Americans with historic family, cultural or geographic connections to military service,” writes the Los Angeles Times.

“Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them. The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states — California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.”

NSA Could Begin Winding Down Bulk Surveillance Today

“The Patriot Act provisions that have allowed the National Security Agency to vacuum up Americans’ phone records officially expire on June 1. But the Obama administration says the NSA must begin preparing to end its bulk-telephone-spying program as soon as Friday,” National Journal reports.

“A Justice Department memo circulated among congressional offices Wednesday and obtained by National Journal said Congress needs to fully settle its differences over the expiring spy provisions this week in order to avoid an operational interruption to the NSA’s mass-surveillance program.”

“The Friday deadline articulated by the Justice Department aligns with a March order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes the NSA program on 90-day intervals. That order instructed the Obama administration to submit to the the court by May 22 a renewal application if it intended to continue the bulk spying in some fashion.”

Honoring Heroes Past and Present

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Army Pfc. Johnny Allen places an American flag in front of a marker in Section 12 during the “Flags In” ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 21, 2015. Allen is assigned to the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company C, known as the Old Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue)

On Memorial Day we honor the men and women who lived and died for their country. In preparation for this day of remembrance, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place American flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Similar observances and tributes around the nation help us remember the service and sacrifice of our fallen military members.

On this day we also pay tribute to all those who continue to bravely serve both in the U.S. and around the globe. That’s more than 2 million men and women who serve in America’s all-volunteer military force and another 3 million who are their husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

Some of their stories have been collected in a new documentary that takes an in-depth look at a new generation of military family that has learned to cope with having loved ones deployed for multiple tours over many years. Understanding the challenges for those deployed, and families left at home, is another way to pay tribute this Memorial Day and all year.

Here’s a sneak peak at the documentary ‘The Homefront’, which will air on PBS at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25.

State-Defense Rivalry Hinders US Fight Against ISIL

David Ignatius: “The United States…is afflicted with its own internecine quarrels that impede effective action in Iraq. These are mundane turf battles among different branches of government, rather than sectarian feuds, but they’ve hindered the U.S. campaign. This is the kind of interagency tension — State Department vs. Pentagon with a cautious White House in the middle — that’s all too familiar in Washington. But it has to stop.”

“Obama decided to base his “presidential envoy” at the State Department, rather than the White House. That was an attempt to placate a turf-conscious Pentagon and avoid a policy czar who would bulldoze opposition, like a reborn Richard Holbrooke. But it was a mistake, which from the start impeded coordination of policy… The point is that the president has to appoint someone to coordinate this fight and install that person at the White House with authority to speak for the administration.”

Cyber Attacks on Financial System Pose Increasing Threat

“US regulators are increasingly concerned about the threat that cyber attacks pose to financial stability after assaults on Sony Pictures and Target highlighted the proliferating range of techniques used by digital raiders,” according to The Financial Times.

“On cyber security, the annual report from the Financial Stability Oversight Council said ‘the prospect of a more destructive incident that could impair financial sector operations’ was even more concerning than recent breaches that have compromised financial information.”

“The regulators’ report pointed to the troubling implications of last year’s attack on Sony Pictures — which the US blamed on North Korea — noting that the company’s computers were apparently rendered inoperable, suggesting that attackers had reached a new level of sophistication.”

McConnell Betting Freedom Act Won’t Reach 60 Votes in Senate

National Journal reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “will allow a vote on a House-passed measure that would effectively end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ call records.”

“McConnell has no desire to see the USA Freedom Act—a measure he repeatedly has denounced as something that could help terrorists kill Americans—pass. Instead, he hopes to watch it fail to accrue the 60 votes necessary to advance. That could jolt more senators toward his preference of extending unhindered the Patriot Act’s three surveillance provisions due to expire June 1.”

“Such a sequence—a vote on the Freedom Act followed by a vote for a clean renewal—could give McConnell what he wants. But in addition to banking on the Freedom Act’s failure, McConnell is gambling that the Senate can move quickly enough to catch House lawmakers before they skip town Thursday.”

USAF Flying Command Post Returned to Service Early

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Boeing photo

The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of four E4-B jets plays a vital and little known role in the defense of the nation as an airborne command post.  And when one of the four aircraft is out for routine maintenance, it’s essential to return to service sooner rather than later.

Boeing’s maintenance and repair facility in San Antonio, Texas, met that challenge, delivering the first E4-B it worked on to the USAF earlier than expected, enabling the USAF to return the critical aircraft to operational service right away. Maintenance on the Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, as well as commercial aircraft, also occurs at the San Antonio location.

Based on the Boeing 747-200 commercial airplane, the E-4B’s primary role during a conflict is as an airborne command post under the direction of the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Boeing built the E-4 fleet and, with the Air Force, has supported the aircraft since the program’s launch in 1974. The company is on contract to maintain the readiness of the aircraft’s systems, bringing each aircraft in for service every four years.

 

How Will NSA Surveillance Reform Fare in the Senate?

Daniel DePetris argues that while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may claim that he will not bring the USA Freedom Act to a vote in his chamber, “he will be the pragmatic legislator that he’s always been throughout his career: looking for where the most votes are and allowing a full and open debate. Right now, USA Freedom appears to have the most votes.”

“Because Section 215 expires on June 1, McConnell will only have until the end of the week to arrive at some sort of compromise in order to retain at least some of the NSA’s authority to search telephone metadata — something that the USA Freedom Act allows the NSA to do, as long as they receive a court order to access the data specific to an authorized counterterrorism investigation. Although McConnell may hope to use the short calendar to pressure his colleagues to support a clean reauthorization, it will be a nearly impossible task for him to pick off enough Senate Democrats to meet the 60-vote threshold. The entire Democratic caucus wants the USA Freedom Act, not an extension of the USA Patriot Act, to be the law of the land.”

Meanwhile, National Journal reports that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) is working on an alternative to the Freedom Act that “would seek to lengthen the transition from the bulk-records regime to an as-needed system, wherein the NSA could ask for select metadata from telephone companies after getting judicial approval.”

Chart of the Day

Defense One provides this chart showing the gradual rise and recent decline of drone patrols conducted by the Air Force. The reason for the sudden reduction?: “the intense pace has pushed airmen to the breaking point.”

“The Air Force measures its UAV capability by the number of targets it can watch around the clock. Keeping one drone over one target is called an orbit, or combat air patrol (abbreviated CAP). Each CAP generally requires four aircraft, a control station, antennas, and satellite communications — plus pilots, intelligence operators, maintainers, and more.”

“No matter how fast the Air Force buys the drones, the service cannot train pilots and mission technicians quickly enough to meet the ever-growing demand… Their services are so valuable that the Air Force’s request to reduce its CAPs required the approval of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. The long-term viability of the UAV force factored into the decision-making process.”

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