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

Afghanistan as Aviation Hub?

Defense News reports that “Afghanistan is not a country known for its aeronautical industry, but at least one top-ranking US official believes that could change.”

“’The aviation industry in Afghanistan is an opportunity for that country,’ Gen. Mark Welsh, US Air Force chief of staff, said Wednesday. ‘It’s an industry that could be incredibly successful and meaningful for them in that region, but it hasn’t been robust in the past. Their Air Force will lead that effort, their airmen will lead that effort.’”

“Welsh, speaking at a breakfast lecture hosted by the National Press Club, warned that any industrial development would be endangered by a 2014 withdrawal of US forces.”

About Topic A

Policy Analysis, Commentary & Discussion

Topic A is a digital meeting place for industry and policy experts to exchange ideas and viewpoints on the most pressing questions facing the national security community.

Some of the content is from Roll Call and some is original to this blog. It includes Sponsor Content clearly marked.

The blog is curated by an independent team of editors hired by Roll Call.

Read more about Topic A

U.S. Army Paratroopers Arrive in Poland

Stars and Stripes reports that “a company of paratroops arrived in Poland Wednesday, the first U.S. ground combat troops to deploy to eastern Europe since the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine began months ago setting Russia and the West in a Cold War-like clinch.”

“The troops, from the Vicenza-based 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, deployed a day after the Pentagon announced the plan to dispatch units to Poland and the Baltics — about 600 troops in all.”

“Since the escalation of tensions between NATO and Russia after the latter annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO allies have dispatched fighter jets and other aircraft to Poland and the Baltics, all of which share a border with Russia. But the deployment of troops could be the first step in a move eastern European leaders have long sought: stronger NATO security guarantees and permanent U.S. boots on the ground.”

Ex-Blue Angels Commander Reassigned ‘After Complaint He Allowed Sexual Harassment’

The Washington Post reports that “the Navy has reassigned a former commander of the Blue Angels, its acrobatic fighter squadron, and is investigating allegations that the elite team of pilots was a hotbed of hazing, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, documents show.”

“The Navy announced Friday that it had relieved Capt. Gregory McWherter, a two-time commander of the Blue Angels, of duty for alleged misconduct. At the time, the Navy did not describe the nature of the accusations or provide other details except to say that the case remained under investigation.”

“But an internal military document that a Navy official inadvertently e-mailed to a Washington Post editor states that a former member of the Blue Angels filed a complaint last month accusing McWherter of promoting a hostile work environment and tolerating sexual harassment. The complaint described an atmosphere rife with sexually explicit speech, the open display of pornography and jokes about sexual orientation.”

“The Navy officer is the latest in a string of senior military commanders to come under investigation for sexual misconduct or other misbehavior. Congress and the White House have grown especially frustrated at the Pentagon’s struggles to police sex crimes and harassment in the ranks.”

Our Everyday Heroes

On a snowy National Medal of Honor Day at Arlington National Cemetery, three everyday American citizens received a prestigious civilian community service award from those who have received the nation’s top military honor, the recipients of the Medal of Honor. Recognized for their selfless service, Michael Landsberry, Connor Stotts and Troy Yocum were honored by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation with the Citizen Honors Award.242493 Medal of Honor_073

Michael Landsberry, a mathematics teacher at a Nevada middle school, made the split-second decision to protect the lives of his students, sacrificing his life in the process. Connor Stotts, an Eagle Scout, rescued three friends who were in danger of drowning. In 2009, Troy Yocum walked 7,880 miles across America in a “Hike for Heroes,” raising $1.3 million to support over 1,800 military families. Two years later, he founded Active Heroes, a charity that supports military families and wounded veterans.

“That’s what heroes do,” said Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems and the Citizen Honors keynote speaker. “They inspire us to reach beyond what we thought we were capable of and provide an example to emulate.”

The Citizen Honors Award is presented to people who, when confronted with extraordinary circumstances, make a decision to act. The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation performs a national search to identify 20 finalists for the award. From among those finalists, a panel of Medal of Honor recipients selects the three individuals to receive the award.

Boeing has been a supporter of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation since its inception in 1999. The company has made a $3 million dollar multi-year commitment to support the Foundation’s Citizen Honors program and education outreach, including expanding the reach of the Medal of Honor Character Development Program.

“They chose to put the interests of others before their own…that is why these awards are so important. They serve to inspire us to be better people,” Krone said.

242493 Medal of Honor_187

 

Report: Vets Die While on VA Waiting List

CNN reports that “at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.”

“The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.”

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.”

“Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.”

Navy to Award Marine One Contract

The Washington Post reports that “the last time the Pentagon tried to upgrade the president’s coolest ride — the fleet of helicopters that drop him at his doorstep on the South Lawn of the White House — it didn’t go well. Costs doubled. Delays sparked ridicule, then outrage. And President Obama, then just a few weeks in office, said it was “an example of the procurement process gone amok” before defense officials killed the program outright.”

“It was an embarrassing debacle that cost $3.2 billion and produced no usable helicopter, turning an iconic symbol of presidential power into an illustration of government waste and incompetence. Now, five years later, the aircraft are more in need of replacement than ever, some almost 40 years old.”

“So the Navy is on the verge of awarding the contract again — a process that will test whether it can learn from the past and whether the Pentagon can purchase major systems without busting budgets and deadlines.”

Study: Military Recruits Trending Older

A new Rand study shows that “Since 2005, the majority of the Army’s recruits has not joined directly out of high school but has instead made the decision to join at a later time. Why these recruits initially chose not to join when they had the opportunity after graduating from high school and why they changed their minds several years later and enlisted are the subjects of this report.”

“Given the importance of older recruits to the Army, the authors examine what is known about these recruits, their performance during military service, and why they came to join the Army after first choosing another postsecondary path. The results of a survey of 5,000 Army recruits designed to answer this question are presented. Finally, the implications of the survey results are discussed, along with suggestions of ways to gain additional insights by tracking this survey cohort through their Army careers.”

Highlights:

  • “Most of Those Who Did Not Enlist Immediately After High School Sought Jobs or Further Education Instead”
  • “Some Who Did Not Enlist Immediately Faced Opposition from Family or Friends”
  • “Others Were Concerned About Current Commitments Overseas”
  • “Those Who Enlisted Later Were Concerned About the Job Market”
  • “They Were Also Less Concerned About External Factors”

5th Boeing GPS IIF Spacecraft Sends Initial Signals from Space

When most people think of GPS, they think of the navigation systems in their car, or the map application on their cell phones. Many people don’t realize that GPS was originally designed to provide satellite communications capability for the military. Today, the Air Force continues to operate the constellation of 31 satellites for millions of civilian and military end-users around the globe.

As part of ongoing efforts to enhance this technology, a Boeing GPS IIF satellite was launched into space on Feb 20, 2014, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket.  This satellite joins four Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites already in service that are providing greater navigational accuracy, a more resilient signal, and a longer design life.

Boeing has played an integral role in the program since the first GPS satellite was launched in 1978. The sixth GPS IIF is already at its Florida launch site, undergoing preparations to enter service in the next few months. And with six more satellites ready to be deployed at the Air Force’s request, the Boeing GPS IIF will form the core of the system for many years to come.

For more information about the latest GPS IIF satellite launch, and about the program, click here.

U.S. Begins Military Training Exercises in Eastern Europe

The New York Times reports that “American military exercises in Eastern Europe are to begin Wednesday as part of a move to ease the anxieties of eastern European countries alarmed by Russia’s efforts to reassert its hegemony in the region, Western officials said.”

“The Russian incursion into Ukraine, including the seizure of Crimea and moves by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, has fanned fears in the former eastern bloc, where memories of decades of Russian domination run deep. The conflict in Ukraine has been seen as a test of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s resolve to maintain the post-Cold War order, including borders cemented after the fall of Communism that eastern European countries regard as sacrosanct.”

“American officials said that about 150 paratroopers from the United States Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, would arrive Wednesday in Swidwin, in northwestern Poland, to begin exercises with Polish troops.”

“Troops will also be deployed in the coming days for similar exercises in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, United States officials said. Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday that the exercises would last about a month and would involve ‘real infantry training.’”

Official: Pentagon Budget Proposals To Be Tied to ‘Needs, Not Budget Caps’

Defense News reports that “The US Defense Department will continue sending Congress budget proposals that do not adhere to federal spending caps and will instead opt to develop budgets it believes are appropriate to defend the country, a senior Pentagon official said.”

“DoD acquisition chief Frank Kendall said, “it is extremely unlikely that we will ask for less money than the president thinks he needs to defend the country.” His comments came in a speech Tuesday at a National Defense Industrial Association conference.”

“Kendall stressed that no formal White House decision had been made to submit cap-busting DoD budgets down the road, but pointed to the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, which exceeds the caps by $115 billion between 2016 and 2019.”

Military Preview: Obama’s Asia Trip

Stars and Stripes reports that “President Barack Obama will leave Tuesday for a four-nation trip to Asia, looking to recharge a focus on the region, an ambitious initiative that’s been sidetracked by domestic politics and international conflicts elsewhere.”

“Yet even as Obama attempts to boost his effort to emphasize U.S. interest in Asia, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine is complicating efforts to reassure Asian nations — which share the region with an increasingly assertive China — that the U.S. is committed to their security.”

“The administration’s efforts to refocus U.S. policy toward Asia were already being questioned in the region with the departure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who made Asia her first official overseas destination in 2009, and worries that a tight U.S. budget and continuing turmoil in the Middle East were proving too distracting for the administration.”

Advanced IRST Sensor Will Make Super Hornet Even More Lethal

Future threats are predicted to be even more evasive and lethal than they are today – stealthier, smarter and less predictable.  In a battle environment where radar isn’t an option, Super Hornet operators soon will be able to rely on an upgraded infrared search and track (IRST) senor system to help find threats at great distances, and determine the best weapons to eliminate them.

This advanced IRST sensor had its first successful flight on a Super Hornet last week, demonstrating that the aircraft has the growth capacity needed to evolve and accommodate new capabilities required by the U.S. Navy. IRST is currently planned to deploy by 2017.

“Adding an advanced infrared sensor to the Super Hornet broadens the Navy’s warfighting ability,” Navy F/A-18 Program Manager Capt. Frank Morley said. “Combined with the Super Hornet’s advanced radar and the Growler’s electronic attack radar jamming ability, IRST will allow the fleet to dominate the skies in all threat environments.”

Lockheed Martin provides the sensor, and Boeing integrates it onto the Super Hornet.

You can read more about this important capability here.

IRST Pod

U.S. Army Must Remain Prepared for Battle

Gian Gentile of the Rand Corp. writes in the Washington Post: “Will the U.S. Army be reduced in size in the coming years? Budget reductions and a changing strategic environment demand a smaller, reorganized army. However, converting it into a force suited only for homeland defense or humanitarian missions abroad, without the ability to fight sophisticated foes as part of a joint force, would result in an unprepared Army likely to experience high casualties when called on to fight a war.”

“If history is any guide, the Army will inevitably be deployed again as a fighting force. The American people should invest in preparing for that event, and avoid the near-catastrophe that occurred in South Korea decades ago.”

10 Years Later, a Visit with Pat Tilman’s Wife

Army Times reports on Marie Tilman, Pat Tilman’s wife, 10 years after his death: “Sitting in the morning light in the neighborhood where she grew up, Marie is at home in a life where the present is inseparable from the past.”

“From the backyard of the house, she can look down over Leland High School. It’s where she was a cheerleader, class of ‘94, where she was voted ‘best smile.’ It’s where she first fell for a chatty football player, the one who was voted ‘most masculine.’ His name was Pat Tillman.”

Meanwhile, ESPN reports that “in his first public statements about the death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player turned Army Ranger, one of the fellow Rangers involved in the 2004 friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan told ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ he has lived for 10 years with the thought that he might have fired the fatal shots.”

“‘It is possible, in my mind, that I hit him,’ said Steven Elliott, who had been engaged in his first firefight as an Army Ranger when Tillman died on April 22, 2004, in the mountainous terrain of southeast Afghanistan.”

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...