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December 18, 2014

Nearly $3 Trillion Spent on Two Wars

“The Afghanistan war, the longest overseas conflict in American history, has cost the US taxpayer nearly $1tn and will require spending several hundred billion dollars more after it officially ends this month,” according to Financial Times calculations and independent researchers.

“Around 80 per cent of that spending on the Afghanistan conflict has taken place during the presidency of Barack Obama, who sharply increased the US military presence in the country after taking office in 2009. The enormous bill for the 13-year conflict, which has never been detailed by the government, will add to the pervasive scepticism about the war in the US, where opinion polls show a majority of Americans believe it was a bad idea.”

“With the Iraq war having already cost the US $1.7tn, according to one study, the bill from the Afghanistan conflict is an important factor in the broader reluctance among the American public and the Obama administration to intervene militarily in other parts of the world — including sending troops back to Iraq.”

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Top Global Hot Spots to Watch

 Top Global Hot Spots to Watch

The Atlantic: “Foreign policy often involves making difficult and debatable choices about which parts of the world matter more to a given country—and which, by extension, matter less. It’s about defining national interests and determining where those interests are most evident and endangered. This is why the United States has done far more to stop ISIS in Syria and Iraq than, say, sectarian war in the Central African Republic.”

“In short, it’s about priorities. And according to a new survey of U.S. foreign-policy experts and practitioners, those priorities could look a lot like the map above in 2015, at least from America’s point of view. The map sorts potential conflicts around the world into three tiers of risk: red for high-priority threats, orange for moderate-priority threats, and yellow for low-priority threats. According to Paul Stares, the report’s lead author, it’s a color-coded snapshot of “where the balance of U.S. attention and resources should be devoted” in the coming year. As such, it’s also a guide to the places and conflicts that are likely to receive relatively little attention from America’s national-security apparatus in the months ahead.”

CBO: Navy Shipbuilding Plan Underfunded

Defense Industry Daily reports that “The latest review external link by the US Congressional Budget Office concludes like in past years that the US Navy’s shipbuilding plan is underfunded, especially in the out years. “’CBO’s estimate of the cost of new-ship construction in the Navy’s 2015 shipbuilding plan is $66 billion, or 13 percent, higher over the next 30 years than the Navy’s estimate.'”

Splashdown! NASA’s First Step toward Mars Mission

Orion launches successfully from Cape Canaveral (NASA photo)

Orion launches successfully from Cape Canaveral (NASA photo)

NASA took another step closer to returning America to deep space December 5 with the test launch of the Orion spacecraft.  Orion’s Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) launched Friday just after 7 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and carried with it the potential to re-ignite America’s engagement in space travel as the rocket lifted off the pad.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft will launch atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for Exploration Mission 1 in 2018, sending astronauts to an asteroid and onward to Mars. Boeing is building the core stages and avionics for the SLS, integrating the vehicle with the Orion to eventually carry crew and cargo as far as Mars.

Thousands of onlookers gathered from all over the world to watch the Orion test flight in person, eager to see the first launch in more than 40 years of a vehicle designed for human travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere. It fires the imagination of young and old, offering possibilities that scientists and engineers are working every day to bring to reality.

Orion launched, without crew, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and splashed down off the California coast hours later. During its 4.5 hour trip, Orion orbited Earth twice and travelled to an altitude of 3,600 miles into space to test the elements that pose the greatest risk to astronauts, providing critical data needed to improve Orion’s design and reduce risks to future mission crews.

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Learn more about the test flight’s ultimate mission, Mars, by visiting and watching the Boeing Innovation Videos at

Study Criticizes U.S. National Security Policy Direction

National Defense Magazine reports that “the United States does not have a credible strategy to combat enemies like Islamic extremist groups and needs to rethink its entire national security decision-making process, a new military-funded study suggests.”

“‘I don’t think we understand completely the fight we are in,’ said Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.”

“Despite 13 years of grueling wars, he noted, the national security apparatus has not adapted to changing threats and has not learned to cope with complex challenges.”

“‘We are in a competition where it looks like football to us, but it’s really a game of soccer with elements of rugby and lacrosse,’ he said Dec. 12 during a gathering of think tank experts and military officials hosted by RAND Corp. senior analyst Linda Robinson. She is one of the authors of a new study sponsored by Army Special Operations Command, titled, “Improving Strategic Competence: Lessons from 13 Years of War.”

Obama: ‘Turning Point’ for US Military

The Christian Science Monitor reports that “President Barack Obama on Monday saluted troops returning from Afghanistan and declared the United States is moving past the time for large deployments aimed at nation building, marking what he called a “turning point” for the U.S. military.’

‘Obama noted that nearly 180,000 troops were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan when he took office, and that number will be down to less than 15,000 at the end of the month.”

“‘The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation building overseas, that’s coming to an end,’ the commander in chief said in a speech to 3,000 at New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a launching point for deployments to Afghanistan.”

Congress: Pressure Grows for Spending Bills

Defense News reports that “for congressional Republicans, it’s put up or shut up time.”

“After capturing control of the Senate and expanding their House majority in November’s midterm elections, GOP leaders viewed a massive government-wide spending bill as a way to set their committee chairs up to craft their own appropriations measures next year.”

“’Clear the deck’ became a rally call among Capitol Hill Republicans, eager to revive the practice of passing annual appropriations bills throughout the year. How GOP leaders did it wasn’t pretty late last week — and there are angry members in both parties — but the “cromnibus” spending bill they shoved through the House as part of a larger package was, in part, aimed at doing just that.”

Building the Capability for a Mars Landing

Human exploration to deep space has long been a dream of Earth’s inhabitants. Finally, we are building the capabilities to make the long journey – and return home safely. It all begins with the rocket that can escape Earth’s atmosphere with enough power left over to carry large elements of those capabilities into deep space to support a long-term human mission. The rocket is NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), and Boeing is right now manufacturing SLS flight hardware in New Orleans at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.

Boeing has just released a video, “38 Stories of Power,” showcasing the rocket build and NASA’s vision for pioneering the deep space frontier.

In the video, Paisley Matthews, Boeing program integration manager for the Space Launch System, explains how Boeing researchers are designing innovative technologies that will thrust humans and cargo into deep space, building the capability for a manned Mars landing in 2030.

It’s no small challenge.

SLS is the largest vehicle ever planned or that exists today – it will tower 384 feet tall or about 38 stories. The rocket will weigh about 6.5-million pounds, have a payload equivalent to the weight of 22 elephants and produce 9-million pounds of thrust.

The SLS will launch for the first time in 2018 for Exploration Mission 1, with an uncrewed capsule, for a trip around the moon.

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DOD Seeks Bullet that Changes Directions After Firing

Stars and Stripes reports that “new .50-caliber bullets that can change direction after they have been fired could make soon make U.S. military snipers more deadly.”

“The EXACTO program — or Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance — is being developed by California’s Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC at the behest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to a DARPA video posted on Youtube.”

“’The objective of the EXACTO program is to revolutionize rifle accuracy and range by developing the first ever guided small-caliber bullet,” DARPA officials said in a July statement accompanying the video. ‘The EXACTO .50-caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and nighttime range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems.’”

Report: Afghan War Cost US Nearly $1 Trillion

The Financial Times reports that “the Afghanistan war, the longest overseas conflict in American history, has cost the US taxpayer nearly $1tn and will require spending several hundred billion dollars more after it officially ends this month, according to Financial Times calculations and independent researchers.”

“Around 80 percent of that spending on the Afghanistan conflict has taken place during the presidency of Barack Obama, who sharply increased the US military presence in the country after taking office in 2009.”

“The enormous bill for the 13-year conflict, which has never been detailed by the government, will add to the pervasive scepticism about the war in the US, where opinion polls show a majority of Americans believe it was a bad idea.”

Paul and Rubio Spar Over Foreign Policy, ISIS AUMF

The nation may have gotten a little taste of 2016 Republican presidential politics Thursday as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky squared off with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on foreign policy, Roll Call reports.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee markup, Paul, a potential 2106 presidential candidate, offered an amendment setting geographic limits to an Authorization for Use of Military Force cleared by the committee that would set parameters on the nation’s fight against the terror group known as Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL.

The amendment failed on a 13 to 5 vote. But the preceding debate, which was respectful, saw Paul and Rubio, who may also seek the Republican nomination for president, disagree over how much Congress should rein in the commander in chief.

Growler: Providing Critical Protection to Our Warfighters


(Boeing Photo)

Electronic Attack Squadron 139 (VAQ-139) – the Cougars – is a U.S. Navy squadron currently deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in the Persian Gulf. With five EA-18G Growlers flying from the ship, the capabilities of the aircraft are critical to operations.

The Growler provides electronic sensing and attack capability to U.S. Navy, joint and coalition forces. The flexibility of the aircraft allows it to address threats of vastly different magnitudes, whether interrupting command and control networks for enemy communications on the ground, or creating a sanctuary for allied operations in a sophisticated Integrated Air Defense System (IADS).

The Growler provides essential protection for U.S. and allied forces. Watch this video to hear more from Growler operators firsthand.

Navy Designs Spy “Fish” to Patrol U.S. Ships, Ports

The Virginian-Pilot reports that “Project Silent Nemo is under way this week at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, where a team of civilian engineers and military officers are testing the capabilities of a 5-foot, 100-pound experimental robot that’s designed to look and swim like a bluefin tuna.”

The goal is “to get the little swimmer into enemy territory undetected to patrol and protect U.S. ships and ports from harm.”

The piece continues: “The robotic fish glided through the harbor Thursday as sailors took turns controlling it with a joystick. It can also be programmed to swim on its own. The robot’s black dorsal fin poked above water as its tail wiggled back and forth, propelling it almost silently just below the surface.”

“Nemo was developed by the Office of Naval Research and is being tested by the chief of naval operation’s Rapid Innovation Cell – a group of junior Navy and Marine Corps officers tasked with putting emerging technologies to use for the military. The same group has been playing around with 3D printers, augmented-reality glasses and about 10 other breakthrough gadgets.”

Congress Questions Military Leaders’ Pensions, Perks

USA Today reports that “the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff petitioned Congress last month to retain privileges for top officers that lawmakers are seeking to trim, including fattened pensions and the number of enlisted aides serving generals and admirals, according to a letter obtained by USA TODAY.”

“Army Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote the letter on Nov. 12 to encourage leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees to undertake comprehensive reform to compensation for troops, rather than a piecemeal approach, according to his spokesman, Air Force Col. Ed Thomas.”

“‘The chairman supports congressional reviews of these programs,’ Thomas said. ‘His recommendation was simply to ensure changes are part of a deliberate review.'”

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