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

Should the Army Prosecute Bowe Bergdahl?

The NYT Editorial Board calls on the Army to drop its prosecution of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“As a general matter, the American military has good reason to punish service members who desert. However, it should exercise discretion in extraordinary cases. Sergeant Bergdahl’s is certainly one… Before Sergeant Bergdahl walked out of his base in Paktika Province on June 30, 2009, it was clear to some of his family members back home, and some of his comrades in Afghanistan, that he was emotionally distressed and at times delusional.”

“But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy — for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit — stands to accomplish little at this point. A conviction would most likely deprive a traumatized veteran of benefits, including medical care, which he will probably need for years. A dishonorable discharge would make it harder to rebuild his life as a civilian.”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Wittes says the Times is conflating prosecution and sentencing: “The argument that Bergdahl has suffered enough should, in my judgement anyway, be a serious factor in his sentencing—one that should likely preclude further incarceration if he is, in fact, convicted. But theTimes skates over the very real and important interests the Army has in bringing a case like this to trial. The Army devoted significant resources to looking for Bergdahl, after all… Getting Bergdahl back ultimately involved genuine costs too. We traded five senior Taliban for him.”

Evaluate Intelligence Programs Before Deploying Them

Michael German: “The intelligence community all too often launches grand new programs without conducting the appropriate research and evaluations to determine whether they will work, or simply create new harms… [W]hen intelligence agencies fail to evaluate their programs, a network of inspectors general, congressional auditors and outside watchdogs often fill the gap. But even when these oversight mechanisms identify an ineffective and wasteful security program, it’s all but impossible to end.”

“Intelligence agencies should be in the habit of evaluating all the possible consequences of an activity undertaken in the name of security before it is implemented.”

Enola Gay Pilot’s Grandson to Lead B-2 Unit

USA Today reports that “the grandson of the pilot who flew the Enola Gay will command the Air Force’s stealth nuclear bomber unit.”

“Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV will command the 509thBomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh announced Friday. Tibbets is currently the deputy director of nuclear operations for U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.”

“Tibbets, who achieved the rank of brigadier general last summer, is one of a few Air Force pilots who have flown the three bombers — the B-1, B-2 and B-52, according to the Air Force. His grandfather, Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets Jr., flew the Enola Gay on the mission to bomb Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.”

Key to Attack Helicopter Mission Success: Apache Longbow Crew Trainer

Boeing Image 4

Boeing photo

The AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter is designed to zero in on enemy targets from miles away and to survive heavy attack while providing close air support for ground troops. Apache’s are deployed as the primary heavy attack helicopter by the U.S. Army as well as allied nations. This complex weapon system requires a well-trained crew to achieve mission readiness and that means a highly sophisticated crew trainer is essential. The Apache Longbow Crew Trainer does just that by matching the capabilities of the trainer to the latest Apache AH-64E model. Each action the pilot and crew performs in the trainer matches the actual aircraft for the most realistic experience, creating a much safer environment for those in charge of operating the aircraft.

Boeing teams in St. Louis work with counterparts on the Apache aircraft team in Mesa, Ariz. to receive early access to the AH-64E helicopter’s design data, operational flight programs and subject matter experts. This enables the team to avoid error-prone processes of reverse engineering displays and logic that would otherwise be required to achieve the accuracy in the trainer. Because the Apache teams work so closely, modernization changes and upgrades can be incorporated into the simulator quickly. In fact, the team is working on an upgrade to both the aircraft and the trainer that will allow daily incremental changes that are made on the aircraft to be made immediately on the trainer.

The aircrews using the Boeing Apache Longbow Crew Trainer are taught to fly in high stress situations and environments they may encounter in real life that often require quick decisions and reactions.  The experience they receive in the trainer allows them to develop and practice the skills to achieve superior performance and mission success training the same way as they fight.

When Drones Fall From the Sky

The Washington Post has a fascinating piece on the lesser known aspect of drone operations: crashes.

“Crashing drones are spilling secrets about U.S. military operations. A surveillance mission was exposed last week when a Predator drone crashed in northwest Syria while spying on the home turf of President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. officials believe the drone was shot down, but they haven’t ruled out mechanical failure…The mishap in Syria follows a string of crashes in Yemen, another country where the U.S. military keeps virtually all details of its drone operations classified.”

“Although they malfunction less often than they used to, they still crash at a higher rate than other military aircraft. Of the 269 Predators acquired by the Air Force over the past two decades, more than half have wrecked in major accidents.”

Army Charges Bergdahl With Desertion, Misbehavior

Yahoo News reports that “Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was held captive for five years by the Taliban, was charged Wednesday by the U.S. military with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and could get life in prison if convicted.”

The Washington Post has more on the specific charges: “The desertion charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, along with a possible reduction in rank and loss of pay and allowances. But the charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a maximum punishment of confinement for life, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to private and total forfeiture of pay and allowances since the time of his disappearance.”

US Takes Over Fight Against ISIS in Tikrit

“U.S. warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit in what American officials said was a sign of the failure of Iranian-backed forces to retake the city,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

“The offensive to retake the city has been stalled for more than a week and American officials on Wednesday said they began the strikes after the Iraqi government formally requested help… U.S. officials said the difficulty in Tikrit exposed the weakness of Iranian support for Iraq’s government, adding that they hope to use those difficulties to drive a wedge between Iraq and Iran.”

GPS Keeps Getting Better


The ninth GPS IIF is launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV on Wednesday. Liftoff occurred on time at 2:36 p.m. Eastern. (United Launch Alliance photo)

Chances are that every day, you benefit from GPS. Whether it’s to complete an online banking transaction, or taking a plane trip, the benefits of GPS extend to every aspect of daily life. Equally important, GPS equipment is keeping U.S. service men and women around the globe safer and more secure.

Making sure that GPS is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, falls to the U.S. Air Force, which manages the constellation of GPS satellites that circle the earth to provide the position, navigation and timing information that is the heart of GPS.  A new generation of GPS satellites, built by Boeing, are being launched to sustain the constellation and strengthen its accuracy and security. Four were launched in 2014, and the first of three planned for 2015 is now on orbit.

The steady launch tempo means that GPS keeps getting better.

View the Delta IV GPS IIF-9 launch highlights video here.

House Budget Boosts Defense Spending in Off-Budget Account

After a complicated series of votes, Politico reports House Republicans successfully produced a budget that “includes $20 billion in military spending beyond what the Budget Committee had approved last week.”

Reuters has more on the defense spending portion: “The winning budget proposes to add $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account above the amount requested by President Barack Obama without any offsetting savings. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said the added war funding was a placeholder for future negotiations to ease ‘sequester’ budget constraints enacted in 2011.”

Coming Soon: Autonomous, Invisible Ships

Defense One reports on the latest program by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA: “a 132-foot autonomous boat to track quiet, diesel-powered submarines.”

“To little notice, the system earlier this year passed a critical test, moving much closer to actual deployment… Most importantly, the tests showed that the robot boat could execute a difficult military mission without violating the maritime laws outlined in the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. They also provided a critical proof-of-concept for machine-learning systems at sea, showing that big robots can, indeed, navigate the open seas along with cruise ships and shrimp boats.”

“The world’s waters could soon be crowded with robot ships that almost never hit land.”

Building a Silicon Valley for Cybersecurity

Christian Science Monitor: “The global cybersecurity market was $67 billion in 2011 and is projected to grow as high as $156 billion by 2019… Seeing a window of opportunity, state governments and pro-business groups from California to Texas and Florida are positioning themselves to win federal contracts and score venture capital investment. Some are going to extraordinary lengths to build what they call ‘a cybersecurity ecosystem.'”

“They are commissioning economic impact studies, developing tax incentives to attract companies to their regions and even hiring PR firms to devise branding strategies. They are competing over government contracts, even investing in startups with money from state coffers. With as many as 300,000 cybersecurity jobs across the country unfilled last year, according to security company Symantec, they are crafting academic programs for public universities to win research grants and generate the next crop of highly skilled workers poised to make six figures– and stay local.”

Aerospace Suppliers Talk Ex-Im, Sequestration with the Hill

Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Chris Chadwick addressed sequestration and acquisition reform issues with Aerospace Industries Association suppliers. (Photo courtesy of AIA/Dan Stohr)

Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Chris Chadwick addressed sequestration and acquisition reform issues with Aerospace Industries Association suppliers. (Photo courtesy of AIA/Dan Stohr)

The Aerospace Industries Association brought more than 100 supplier representatives to Washington Tuesday for discussions with Department of Defense and industry leaders about pressing issues they face, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, alleviating the severe defense budget strain caused by sequestration, and the need for reforming government acquisition rules. Suppliers are urging lawmakers to address these issues so the U.S. aerospace industry can remain globally competitive and able to provide the products and services that the U.S. military needs to meet national security objectives.

Many people don’t realize that the Export-Import Bank supports both the defense and commercial aerospace sectors. If Congress doesn’t pass long-term reauthorization by June 30 the aerospace industry could face devastating consequences including billions of dollars of lost business, and tens of thousands of jobs in jeopardy. During the supplier meeting, Boeing Senior Vice President of Government Operations Tim Keating spoke about the benefits of the Export-Import Bank to promote growth and to level the playing field for American exports. He urged suppliers to tell their story on Capitol Hill. More information about the‎ Ex-Im Bank can be found at: Ex-Im Coalition.

Defense budget cuts implemented and looming, as a result of the law commonly known as sequestration, have forced the aerospace industry to make difficult decisions amid persistent uncertainty. During his remarks to suppliers, Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Chris Chadwick outlined what the company has had to do to remain competitive, including difficult employment reductions over the last five years and cutting billions of internal costs.

Despite those changes, Chadwick said, there’s more to do. If sequestration continues, the industry may have to close additional facilities, watch talent flee to other industries, and degrade its ability to support military readiness and capabilities. The longer such activities persist, the more expensive it will be to reconstitute capabilities in the future, he said.

Chadwick also discussed with the suppliers how each defense dollar needs to count more, which makes acquisition reform – a topic that’s been studied and talked about for decades – more important than ever. He urged suppliers to work together with customers to support defense acquisition reforms that streamline how the government buys commercial items, and restore a balanced approach to protecting intellectual property rights. Both of these initiatives would lower costs, enabling industry to provide more affordable, technologically advanced solutions.‎

The Tricky Politics of the Defense Budget

The Washington Post editorial board looks at the political obstacles facing bipartisan efforts to boost defense spending and avoid the drastic cuts left over by sequestration.

“Mr. Obama proposed matching the defense increase with an equal amount of added domestic spending, but the Republican budget plans exclude that. That may make it difficult to win the floor votes, if Democratic support is needed, and Mr. Obama might eventually resist a defense increase if there is no domestic counterpart.”

“While the administration added its additional defense spending to the base budget, Republicans tried to balance fiscal and military hawkishness by leaving the sequester-mandated base budget unchanged and pouring additional funds into a contingency account meant to cover temporary war expenses. That tactic has been used before, but it is a poor way to do business that may end up constricting spending on long-term defense needs. At a minimum, it means a necessary fight over the base budget will have been kicked down the road.”

U.S. Likely to Extend Stay in Afghanistan

After Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to the White House yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reports that “President Barack Obama is expected to back a revised U.S. troop withdrawal plan that would keep more American forces in the country for a longer period than initially planned.”

“While regular U.S. troops no longer carry out combat missions in Afghanistan and the size of the American military force in the country has been cut to 10,000 troops from 100,000 since 2012, Mr. Ghani wants to ensure that American forces remain in the country for years to come.”

“Mr. Obama wants to withdraw most of the remaining U.S. forces before he leaves office in 2017, but that hope is being tested by Islamic State-affiliated fighters and Taliban militants opposing Afghan security forces… Mr. Obama is likely to pursue efforts to create a more-limited American presence to help advise Afghan forces, collect intelligence on militants in the region and carry out limited counterterrorism operations.”

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