Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
July 24, 2014

Detail Emerge on Army ‘Drawdown’

Stars and Stripes reports that “of the more than 1,100 Army captains notified last month their military careers would soon end, 87 were deployed worldwide and 48 were serving in Afghanistan at the time, Army officials said Wednesday.”

“The Army has been talking for months about the need to separate the captains as well as more than 500 majors this summer as part of the broad Army drawdown, but it’s the first time details have emerged about the sobering business of delivering pink slips to troops in harm’s way.”

“The separations have become an issue on Capitol Hill, with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questioning ISAF commander Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford about it during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week.”

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Microgrids: How the U.S. Military Can Benefit

Roll Call’s Energy Xtra reports that the rise of microgrids — small, site-specific electrical power generation and distribution systems — has been documented among homeowners in disaster-prone areas and noticed by the companies that run the big grids. Nationwide, microgrids produce only about a gigawatt of power collectively, reports say, and many of those projects are by homeowners and institutions such as colleges. But there also another potentially big American player: the Defense Department.

A new analysis released by Red Mountain Insights notes that the military moves a lot of fossil fuel around to generate electricity at its far-flung facilities. “The fuel powers more than 15,000 generators in Afghanistan alone,” the research firm says. “What if, through use of Microgrid technologies, the military could cut that fuel transportation and use in half?”

Microgrid use is already gaining momentum in the department, Red Mountain says.

Congress Can’t Agree on Extending Program for Injured Vets

The Daily Beast reports that “lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that a pilot program to treat veterans with traumatic brain injuries should be extended. But they can’t seem to pass the needed legislation.”

“Come September, recovering veterans in at least 20 states could be booted from a pilot program for traumatic brain injury—not because of personal medical progress, but because of the nation’s lawmakers.”

“Despite bipartisan support, Congress has not been able to pass an extension of the rehabilitation program. Since last fall, the extension has been attached to several pieces of veterans legislation, which failed after lawmakers were unable to agree on military and VA reforms.”

Laser Weapons No Longer a Figment of the Imagination

Directed Energy weapons are no longer confined to the imaginations of science fiction aficionados. Boeing has taken an innovation dreamt by the warfighter and made it a reality.

Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator team has used a solid state laser to destroy mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The laser destroys targets with pinpoint precision within seconds of acquisition, then acquires the next target and keeps firing – all without reloading, endangering the warfighter, or revealing unit location.

Using a Boeing-owned radar system for cueing, Boeing recently demonstrated the 10-kilowatt laser demonstrator’s capabilities in a maritime environment. The system acquired and tracked targets repeatedly, proving that laser systems are no longer a weapon of the future. Laser weapon systems are effective against a wide variety of air and missile threats…the right solution at the right time – now.

To see directed energy in action, watch the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator video:

Report: Enlisted Women to Serve on Attack Submarines by 2020

Navy Times reports that “with female officers having served in the boomer force for nearly three years, the Navy is aiming for women to make up a significant portion of the ballistic-missile submarine force by 2020, one of the new waypoints in the silent service’s historic integration.”

“By 2020, the Navy plans to have women make up 20 percent of the enlisted crew on seven of the 18 Ohio-class submarines, according to the Navy’s latest integration plan. The plan also calls for enlisted women to begin serving on attack submarines after 2020, when the Block IV Virginia-class submarines begin entering the service.”

“’There are many very capable women with the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force. Drawing from this talent enables us to maintain our undersea dominance,’ Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement to Navy Times. “For these reasons, we have been working diligently to integrate enlisted women into the submarine force.”

Climate Change Impacts the Pentagon

“All Pentagon operations in the U.S. and abroad are threatened by climate change, according to a Defense Department official,” The Hill reports.

Said Daniel Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for strategy and force development: “The effects of the changing climate affect the full range of Department activities, including plans, operations, training, infrastructure, acquisition, and longer-term investments. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Department can keep pace with the impacts of changing climate patterns, minimize effects on the Department, and continue to protect our national security interests.”

“Given the perceived threats, Chiu said climate change is playing a key role in international efforts.”

Military Suicides Declined Slightly in 2013

“Suicides in the military dropped by 6 percent last year, a decline that Pentagon officials hope signals a reversal in a tragic trend — but that some advocates say does not reflect the true scope of the issue in the military and veterans’ community,” the Air Force Times reports.

“According to data published Tuesday by the Defense Department, 479 service members — 259 active-duty troops, 87 Reserve members and 133 National Guard members — died by suicide in 2013, down from 319 active-duty members and 203 non-activated Reserve and Guard members in 2012.”

“The rate per 100,000 — a measure used to compare incidence across the services and the civilian population — also dropped for the active-duty force, from 22.7 to 18.7.”

Our Path from the Moon to Mars


NASA photo

Just 66 years after America achieved first flight at Kitty Hawk, a new generation of pioneers landed a man on the Moon, fulfilling NASA’s promise to be first to plant its flag on extra-terrestrial terrain. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launched on a Saturn V from Earth July 16, 1969 and Armstrong took that first step onto the lunar surface on July 20.

“Many of us vividly remember sitting with family and friends watching history play out in grainy black and white television 45 years ago when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s surface,” said John Elbon, Boeing Space Exploration vice president and general manager. “That moment impacted a lot of lives and set young people around the world on the path toward careers in science and engineering. Those space enthusiasts in turn launched decades of incredible technological advancements.”

Later generations were engaged by the Space Shuttle program, as it launched again and again to transport crew and cargo to build the world’s first on-orbit space station, realizing NASA’s dream of off-planet habitation to foster new discoveries in science, medicine and technology.

“Future scientists, engineers and researchers are looking to us to achieve the next great accomplishments in space exploration that will inspire them to dream and work for a role in tomorrow’s space adventure beyond Earth and on to Mars,” said Elbon. “Our teams are making history, giving shape to NASA’s vision for near Earth and deep space exploration. The work we are doing today is opening doors all around the world where new generations are hoping for their own Apollo 11 moment.”

NASA today is maintaining the International Space Station, building a Commercial Space Transportation System to resupply the ISS and transport crew, while also building Space Launch System (SLS). In labs all over the country, teams are working on a number of advancements in propulsion, materials, and new capabilities to enable deep space exploration.

It may be the journey that matters, but we’ll all remember the moment when we take that first step onto Mars terrain.

Confirmation Is the Easy Part for VA Nominee

“The easiest part about the job of the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs may be getting it,” Defense One reports.

“The Senate Veterans Affairs committee on Tuesday gave unanimous support to former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to serve as VA secretary, green lighting President Barack Obama’s nominee, who is expected to be confirmed before Congress leaves for its August recess next week.”

“But more than 50 days since former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of a still-growing scandal over wait times at VA health facilities, McDonald’s confirmation is just one, albeit significant, step forward for the Sisyphean effort he is set to soon lead: fixing a VA broken in both spirit and function.”

Iraqi Ambassador Calls on U.S. to Begin Airstrikes in Iraq

Defense News reports that “the Iraqi ambassador to the United States explicitly called for ramped up American military involvement in his country on Monday, asking the United States to launch air strikes against positions being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Sunni extremist group that has gained control over swaths of northern and western Iraq.”

“H.E. Lukman Faily told an audience at an Atlantic Council event in Washington that for the US and Iraq ‘to conduct counterterrorism operations in urban areas occupied by ISIL, we need precision US air attacks,’ and that ‘the US should offer air support targeting terrorist camps and supply convoys in remote areas.’”

“American air strikes would also “protect Iraq’s borders against further terrorist influx” the ambassador said, since key elements of ISIL have flowed across the porous Iraq/Syria border in the past several months, giving the group freedom of movement across the Sunni-dominated western Iraq and eastern Syria.”

Medal of Honor Award Given

Stars and Stripes reports that “as the soldiers around him were killed one by one, a young paratrooper ended up fighting solo to hold a key piece of high ground that overlooked a U.S. base in danger of being overrun by a larger Taliban force.”

“Serious wounds didn’t stop former Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts from hurling a steady flow of grenades and machinegun fire at insurgents, holding them at bay until the tide of battle shifted in one of the costliest engagements of the war in Afghanistan.”

“For his fighting prowess and dedication to protecting his buddies, Pitts, now 28 and living in Nashua, N.H., on Monday became the ninth living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Afghan War during a White House ceremony.”

Export-Import Bank Matters to Economic and National Security

The U.S. has a bank that helps keep a level playing field for businesses selling goods on the global market. It’s a bank where 90 percent of the transactions last year benefitted small American businesses. Since 2008, it has supported $107 billion of U.S. exports and more than 1 million jobs across all 50 states. It also covers all of its costs through the fees it charges its foreign customers, and it has put a billion dollars back into the U.S. Treasury in each of the past two years. The bank is the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and it could close its doors if Congress does not reauthorize its activities by Sept. 30.

The bank has been around for 80 years and underwrites loans to foreign entities to buy U.S. products. Fifty-nine other countries have similar banks to support their exports. Without Ex-Im, American businesses would lose sales to foreign competitors, and American workers would lose their jobs.

America must stay engaged, and competitive, in global markets. Ex-Im helps America succeed in tough global competitions. It helps create and sustain U.S. jobs, generate economic growth, and provide the revenue needed to create innovative new American products. It also helps America build and strengthen its ties to other nations. All of these are critical elements to our nation’s future prosperity and national security. We cannot be strong if our economy is not strong. Congress needs to help keep American businesses in the game. It needs to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.

Learn more about how the Ex-Im bank works and why it’s vital to America’s economy:

China Presses for Closer Ties With U.S. Military

The Wall St. Journal reports that “China is seeking greater access to U.S. aircraft carriers and guidance on how to operate its own first carrier, the Liaoning, testing the limits of a newly cooperative military relationship the two sides have tried to cultivate in the past year.”

“The latest Chinese request came last week when U.S. Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, visited China to explore new areas of cooperation, despite recent maritime tensions and the presence of an uninvited Chinese spy ship at naval drills off Hawaii.”

Injured Vets Program in Danger

“A program that allows veterans with traumatic brain injuries to receive treatment in assisted living facilities is in danger of closing down,” The Hill reports.

“With only two weeks to go before the August recess, Congress has yet to take action on legislation that would renew the pilot program before it expires on Sept. 30. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) proposed legislation this week that would prolong the treatment option for another three years at a cost of $46 million.”

“But the treatment program is at risk being lost in the shuffle, with lawmakers in both chambers of Congress preoccupied with trying to reach an agreement on overhauling the troubled veterans healthcare system. Those talks are hitting the wall over questions about whether the cost of overhauling the Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics should be paid for through other changes to the budget.”

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