Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Russia Increasing Military Drills to Cold War Levels:NATO

Fox News reports that “Russia has stepped up its military maneuvers to a level unseen since the height of the Cold War, according to a new report released by NATO Thursday.”

“Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general and author of the report, noted that Moscow has conducted at least 18 large-scale exercises over the past three years, ‘some of which have involved more than 100,000 troops.'”

“Those exercises included several simulated nuclear attacks against NATO allies and partner nations, such as Sweden in March 2013.”

US Works to Build Anti-Islamic State Strategy in Libya reports that “the Obama administration is struggling to find the right mix of military and diplomatic moves to stop the Islamic State in Libya, where the extremist group has taken advantage of the political chaos in the country to gain a foothold with worrying implications for the U.S. and Europe — particularly Italy, just 300 miles away.”

“U.S. officials have publicly warned of the risks of Libya becoming the next Syria, where the Islamic State flourished amid civil war and spread into Iraq.”

“No large-scale U.S. military action is contemplated in Libya, senior administration officials said, but Obama last week directed his national security team to bolster counterterrorism efforts there while also pursuing diplomatic possibilities for solving Libya’s political crisis and forming a government of national unity. While the Islamic State has emerged in other places, including Afghanistan, Libya is seen as its key focus outside of Syria and Iraq.”

House Introduces Bill to Requires Women to Sign Up for Draft

Stars and Stripes reports that “two House Republicans introduced a bill Thursday requiring eligible women in the United States to sign up for the military draft, just days after it was recommended by the Marine Corps and Army.”

“Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine veteran, and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Minn., a retired Navy SEAL, filed the Draft American’s Daughters Act to stoke debate over the military’s historic move to fully integrate female troops into all combat roles. If passed, women from 18-26 years old would for the first time have to join men in registering with the Selective Service program and potentially be forced to fight in future wars.”

“’If this administration wants to send 18, 20-year-old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives,’ Hunter said in a released statement.”

Topic A: Defense

Legacy of Service: the 747-8 Will Be Next Air Force One

1CB5VF_7478_Approach_Sunrise_01 COMPRESSED.jpgFrom Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Air Force One has transported U.S. presidents around the world – and Boeing’s been a partner along the way.  Last week, the U.S. Air Force issued a contract that will continue the tradition of Boeing building presidential aircraft.

The next presidential aircraft will be based on the747-8 aircraft and replace the current VC-25As in use. The VC-25A is based on the 747-200 platform and was fielded in the 1990s when the first President Bush was in the Oval Office.  Although the Air Force One call sign is not specific to a particular plane but to what aircraft the president is on, a majority of the president’s travel in on the iconic 747 platform.

When the presidential seal and “United States of America” are painted on the 747-8 and one of most recognizable symbols of the presidency takes flight, Boeing airplanes will continue more than half a century of presidential service.

U.S. General: Military Needs to Push Back Taliban

The Washington Post reports that “the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has presented military leaders with recommendations that, if approved, would further expand the U.S. military role in helping local forces confront the Taliban and other militants.”

“In an interview, Gen. John F. Campbell said the potential steps, which include having U.S. forces accompany more Afghan units closer to the front lines and expanding the use of U.S. air power, were focused on enhancing support to Afghan military during what’s expected to be a fierce Taliban offensive in 2016.”

“‘I’m not going to leave without making sure my leadership understands that there are things we need to do,’ the general said during a visit to Washington.”

U.S. Military Working on Cyborgs reports that “The U.S. military is working to develop a new chip technology that, when implanted, will connect human brains to computers — making cyborgs.”

“Should the chip succeed, it could have nearly limitless possibilities. The U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) often plays a big role in the development of technologies that civilians eventually benefit from, such as GPS or the Internet.”

“For the US military, it could help warfighters on a number of levels, such as augmenting their senses- hearing, sight and more.”

Pentagon to Relocate Families at Risk to Zika Virus

Military Times reports that “pregnant family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to areas affected by the Zika virus will be offered voluntary relocation, a Defense Department official said Monday.”

“Details as to how affected beneficiaries can request a transfer were not released, but a U.S. Southern Command officials said that one expecting service member already has been relocated.”

“Responding to a growing concern over the ‘explosive’ outbreak of Zika virus in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, U.S. Southern Command also is identifying ways to ‘support partner nations,’ but has not yet received requests for help, DoD spokesman Marine Corps Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.”

Topic A: Defense

Saving Money Again and Again? Yes.

P8AT1MtRanierP64934-04_high-resThe U.S. Navy recently awarded a $2.5 billion contract to build 20 additional P-8A Poseidon aircraft.  By itself, the contract speaks to the capability of the Poseidon and the customer’s confidence in its performance.  It is also a testament to the cost benefits of the in-line production system which is driving down the unit cost for each P-8A.

Historically, commercial derivative aircraft like the P-8A were built as commercial airplanes.  After production they were cut up and reassembled to include the required military components, a time consuming and expensive process.

Enter a unique collaboration.  When Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Defense, Space and Security asked “Why not do this together?” a new concept was born.  Now these military aircraft begin their lives as commercial airplanes alongside their commercially-dedicated siblings.  They move down an export-controlled commercial production line, making changes along the way to meet military needs: a structure change here, military systems provisions there…all without sacrificing production time or efficiency.  

At the end of production, those commercial aircraft have been reborn as military aircraft that can perform anti-submarine or anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, transport, surveillance and reconnaissance…any number of missions.

So how is it possible that a process that creates a complex, highly versatile military aircraft can decrease unit cost over time?  When rolled seamlessly into the existing 737 production system, all P-8As benefit from the economies of scale, high-volume lean production process, and robust supply chain for the multitude of parts common to both platforms.  The result has been a 30 percent reduction in unit cost since the initial P-8A contract.  And the focus to move more production elements “to the left”, back into the commercial production line to maximize all those benefits, continues.  Just gets better and better.

Military Tests Robo-Parachute Delivery That Requires No GPS

IEEE Spectrum reports that “Someday, U.S. soldiers fighting in the streets of a sprawling megacity will need an airdrop of ammunition, food, or water that can’t be safely delivered by ground convoy or helicopter. But the supplies parachuting from the skies won’t have to rely on GPS signals that suffer from inaccuracy in cluttered city environments or can be disrupted by enemies. The U.S. military has been testing new supply airdrops that can automatically aim for a precise landing based on images of the target area.”

“Recent tests of the U.S. Army’s Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) have been trying new navigational software—developed by the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., and other companies—to achieve GPS-style accuracy with images alone. The software figures out its current location by comparing ground terrain features, such as trees or buildings seen by onboard cameras, with the latest satellite or drone images of the target area in its database. That allows the software to accurately guide the descent of the parafoil-equipped cargo as it glides toward the ground. It’s all part of a broader effort by the U.S. military to test computer-driven versions of old fashioned navigation by sight.”

U.S. Military Tells Congress Women Should Register for Draft

Reuters reports that “U.S. armed forces leaders said on Tuesday that women should be required to register for the military draft, along with men, as the military moves toward integrating them fully into combat positions.”

“Congress should begin to look at legislation requiring women to register for the Selective Service, they told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on women in combat.”

“‘I think that all eligible and qualified men and women should register for the draft,’ said General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps.”

U.S. Military Strengthens in Eastern Europe

The New York Times reports that “President Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.”

“The White House plans to pay for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, several officials said Monday, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million. The weapons and equipment will be used by American and NATO forces, ensuring that the alliance can maintain a full armored combat brigade in the region at all times.”

Topic A: Defense

New Air Force Tanker Conducts First Air Refueling

A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft successfully completed its first air-to-air refueling test flight, marking a significant development milestone for the program to replace most of the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet.

On January 24, the KC-46A, with a combined Air Force and Boeing crew, took off from Boeing Field outside Seattle. While flying at 20,000 feet, the crew extended the tanker boom smoothly into the receptacle above the nose of an F-16 fighter, offloading approximately 1,600 pounds of fuel.

The KC-46’s refueling flight kicks off what is called “Milestone C” testing – flights and tests that will ultimately lead to an Air Force decision to begin production. As part of upcoming flight tests, the new tanker also will refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet Navy fighter, a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter, an A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier short take off and vertical landing jet, as well as receive fuel from a KC-10 tanker.

The KC-46A, derived from Boeing’s 767 commercial airplane, is a multi-role tanker that will refuel U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft. Passengers, cargo and patients also can be transported.Boeing is building four test aircraft – two 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The 767-2Cs enter flight test as commercial freighters prior to receiving aerial refueling systems, while the KC-46As are fully-equipped tankers. The different configurations are used to meet FAA and military certification requirements. The program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, has completed more than 260 flight hours since its inaugural flight in December 2014. The KC-46 tanker has completed more than 140 flight hours since its first flight September 25, 2015.

To learn more and watch a video of the aerial refueling, click here.

USAF Space Mission Force to Counter Russia, China reports that as of Feb. 1, “the Air Force will stand up a Space Mission Force at the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, the first of several steps meant to put more experienced and ready people in charge of watching U.S. military satellites.”

“The new force will include 352 people across four squadrons. Half of them will conduct operations while the other half is training. Each squadron will operate with four crews on 12-hour shifts, supported by a mission planning cell that includes orbit analysts, intel professionals, engineers, and mission specialists.”

“Later this year, the Air Force will stand up two more Space Mission Force crews in Colorado: one at the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base and then one at the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base.”

Sesame Street Provides New Support to Military Families

The U.S. Air Force states that “Elmo, Big Bird and Abby Cadabby are teaming up with the Defense Department to support thousands of military families as they transition to civilian life, according to Transition to Veterans Program Office officials.”

“On Jan. 27, the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, launched a website devoted to helping families cope with the changes associated with transitioning into civilian life, the officials said. Sesame Workshop includes several videos for children and adults, an activity book called ‘My Story, My Big Adventure Activity Book,’ and other resources that military parents can use to help their families communicate through the transition process, the officials said.”

“The products are intended to increase the ability of parents to communicate with young children in age-appropriate ways and create awareness among transition service providers of the importance of including the whole family, particularly children, when addressing transitions for active duty service members, the officials said. The products are available online and will be distributed through a variety of networks where military families and children are present, both on and off military installations, the officials said.”

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