Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
July 28, 2014

Navy Missile Tests Schedule for CA in Autumn

Defense News reports that “the littoral combat ship USS Coronado will get a chance at an historic LCS first this fall when it launches a surface-to-surface missile in tests off Southern California.”

“The US Navy confirmed this week that the Coronado is scheduled to test-launch the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) off Point Mugu, California, where the Naval Air Warfare Center maintains an extensively-instrumented missile range.”

“The test will follow a successful NSM launch July 10 from the Norwegian frigate Fridtjof Nansen during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises near Hawaii. The frigate fired a single NSM at the decommissioned amphibious ship Ogden and scored a direct hit.”

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Navy ‘Pivot’ Towards Pacific Continues; Will Send Combat Ships, Destroyers

Stars and Stripes reports that “the Navy will send new stealth destroyers, littoral combat ships and an amphibious ready group to the Pacific, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Monday, reiterating the U.S. commitment to its military ‘pivot’ to the region.”

“’The rebalance to the Pacific is real,’ Mabus told sailors gathered at Yokosuka’s Fleet Theater for an all-hands call.”

“President Barack Obama announced plans for the Pacific pivot as the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were winding down. But conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Gaza have since heated up, raising questions about the best use of forces amid dwindling military budgets. Obama reassured Pacific allies of his support during a recent visit against a backdrop of Chinese expansionism and North Korean threats.”

SpaceX Lawsuit Against USAF Gets Boost

The Washington Post reports that “a federal judge has ordered a review of a U.S. Air Force contract to put dozens of military satellites into orbit. The contract, which was awarded to longtime federal partner United Launch Alliance, is being contested by SpaceX over claims that the bidding process was non-competitive.”

“In a filing this week, Judge Susan Braden of the Court of Federal Claims said that United Launch Alliance, or ULA, would need to hand over details of a contract with the U.S. Air Force that it secured last year. The terms of the agreement are expected to shed light — behind closed doors, anyway — on the cost to taxpayers of using United Launch Alliance’s rockets.”

“The decision marks an early victory for SpaceX, which in April sued the government and accused it of simply giving the $11 billion dollar contract away without providing ample opportunity for competition. The Defense Department expects to spend as much as $70 billion on the wider launch program by 2030 — but SpaceX has claimed it can put payloads into orbit for far cheaper than ULA.”

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:

U.S. Says Photos Show Russian Involvement in Ukraine

The Wall St. Journal reports that “the Obama administration released photographic evidence on Sunday it says shows Russian forces fired rockets across the border into eastern Ukraine and that Moscow-backed separatists used heavy weaponry sourced from Russia inside Ukraine.”

“The evidence bolsters the administration’s assertions Thursday that the conflict has taken an ominous turn with direct Russian military involvement. Its release comes as administration officials say they expect European leaders to adopt stringent new economic sanctions against Moscow, based partly on the evidence showing that Russian support for separatists has only increased since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down earlier this month.”

“The U.S. says one of the images from the Director of National Intelligence that was released by the State Department, an aerial shot taken over the weekend and depicting magnified impact craters and blast marks, shows Russians fired “multiple rocket launchers into Ukraine.”

Veteran’s Bill Likely Dead

“Negotiations between the House and Senate over legislation reforming the Veterans Affairs Department melted down on Thursday, raising the probability that Congress will leave for the August recess without approving a bill,” The Hill reports.

“Leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committees released rival proposals that illustrated the two sides are billions apart on how to fix the problems at the VA, where veterans waited hundreds of days to get appointments.”

Roll Call has more details on the story.

Can the Pentagon Convince Republicans on Climate Change?

“Faced with mounting scientific evidence that humans are causing climate change, Republicans are having an increasingly hard time denying the facts. Those denials became even more laughable Tuesday, when one of the party’s favorite agencies, the Department of Defense, told Congress that climate change is hurting military operations,” the New Republic observes.

“At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, a Department of Defense representative laid out how climate change is exposing its infrastructure in coastal and Arctic regions to rising sea levels and extreme weather, and that it’s even impacting decisions like which types of weapons the Pentagon buys. This is only the latest in a series of recent warnings from the military, which raised the issue as far back as George W. Bush’s second term. In March, the Pentagon warned, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that the effects of climate change ‘are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.’ In other words, increased drought and water shortages are likely to trigger fighting over limited resources. The military has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas footprint 34 percent by 2020—and it’s already well on its way to that goal.”

“When the DOD says it needs something, Republicans usually listen. Perhaps the military can convince conservatives that climate change is real enough to obstruct national security?”

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.

America’s Top Threats in Space Are Lasers and Nukes

Defense One: “The U.S. thought it won the space race long ago, but no victory lasts forever. On Tuesday, Gen. William Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, speaking at the Atlantic Council, said that U.S. dominance in space will be confronted by some real threats in the years ahead. When Defense One asked what those threats might consist of specifically, he replied jammers, lasers and tactical space nukes.”

“The nature of these threats hasn’t evolved much since the publication of this 2001 report by the Commission to Assess Untied States National Security Space Management and Organization, chaired by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One of the chief findings of the commission was that U.S. reliance on space was going to grow—making U.S. satellites and space assets an increasingly attractive target for those who mean us harm.”

“But while the threats themselves haven’t changed in some 13 years, the technology behind them has made some more likely. Let’s take a look at each.”

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.”

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.

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:

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.”

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.”

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