Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
June 30, 2015

Iran Talks Set to Pass June 30 Deadline

“The Iran nuclear talks will spill beyond a Tuesday deadline,” writes The Washington Post, “as Iran’s foreign minister broke off from the negotiations and flew to Tehran for consultations.”

“A potential agreement to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief remains elusive in this final round of talks, the culmination of more than 19 months of intense negotiations. Major differences still divide the two sides: Iran on the one hand and six world powers, including the United States, on the other. The key unresolved issues concern the pace at which sanctions would be lifted and how much access Iran would grant international inspectors who would monitor its compliance.”

Associated Press: “Both sides recognize that there is leeway to extend to July 9. As part of an agreement with the U.S. Congress, lawmakers then have 30 days to review the deal before suspending congressional sanctions. But postponement beyond that would double the congressional review period to 60 days, giving both Iranian and U.S. critics more time to work on undermining an agreement.”

SpaceX Rocket Failure Highlights Challenges of Space Missions

“Space pioneer Elon Musk’s company suffered a major setback Sunday when its Falcon 9 rocket carrying an unmanned cargo capsule had a catastrophic failure, breaking up shortly after liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It was the first launch failure of a Falcon 9, the flagship booster of closely held Space Exploration Technology Corp., or SpaceX, as Mr. Musk’s Southern California company is known… The Dragon capsule was filled with some 4,000 pounds of food and water-recycling equipment, experiments, a spare spacesuit and other cargo destined for the space station. Sunday’s failure follows the failed launch of a Russian cargo capsule in April. Orbital Sciences Corp., the only other U.S. company able to resupply the orbiting laboratory, is struggling to resume its flights after an earlier rocket failure of its own.”

“Now, however, a joint SpaceX-Federal Aviation Administration investigation could take months to reach a conclusion, and fixes may take longer to implement. Meanwhile, all Falcon 9 flights are expected to be suspended.”

To Fight Lone Wolf Terrorists, Recognize They Are Not Alone

Gabriel Weismann argues that the “lone wolf” label for some acts of terrorism obscures ways thats law enforcement can combat domestic radicalization.

“The solo terrorists are often recruited, radicalized, trained and directed by others online. The current wave of lone-wolf attacks has been propelled by websites and online platforms that provide limitless opportunities for individuals to explore and locate their virtual pack.”

“Yet they are traceable because they share common characteristics, despite their varied backgrounds. First, they are not really alone: They are connected online, where they often engage in robust conversations. Across a wide variety of sites and platforms, they can reveal a strong commitment to or identification with extremist movements. In addition, their actions do not take place in a vacuum. Their virtual packs can be monitored and studied. Thorough outreach by law enforcement into radical, extremist and other terrorist communities is another key to find early warnings.”

Growler Pride

The EA-18G Growler, the only airborne electronic attack aircraft in production today, is featured on June’s Frontiers cover.   In this story, you’ll hear first-hand from EA-18G Growler flight crews stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island who operate and maintain these aircraft.

Boeing’s electronic warfare fighter jet is used extensively in combat today.  By detecting enemy threats, jamming enemy radar, and helping aircrews flying other aircraft reach their targets without being detected, the Growler is an essential force in the fight – now and far into the future.

See the cover and read the story here.


Intelligence Chief Calls China “Leading Suspect” in OPM Hack

“The top U.S. intelligence official signaled Thursday that Chinese hackers were behind the theft of millions of personnel records from the federal government,” The Wall Street Journal reports, “marking the administration’s most pointed assignment of blame since the breach was announced June 4.”

“Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, speaking at a Washington intelligence conference, said China was the ‘leading suspect’ in the attacks… The administration previously avoided publicly attributing the breach to China, though numerous U.S. officials privately have said the hackers were Chinese.”

“In past years it was unusual for the U.S. government to identify suspected cyberthieves, but that may be changing. In December, the White House accused North Korea of stealing and destroying large amounts of records from Sony Pictures Entertainment. And in May 2014, a federal grand jury indicted five Chinese military hackers for ‘computer hacking, economic espionage’ and other offenses against entities including a U.S. nuclear plant.”

Are Space Wars Heating Up?

“The Pentagon and intelligence community are developingwar plans and an operations center to fend off Chinese and Russian attacks on U.S. military and government satellites,” writes Defense One.

“The ops center, to be opened within six months, will receive data from satellites belonging to all government agencies… One of several changes to space strategy and posture that have emerged from a year-long Pentagon review, the new facility is part of a $5 billion boost for space security included in the Defense Department’s 2016 budget request. Among the other high-priority projects in the request are $21 million for Navy communications satellites, up from $11 million the previous year; and $100 million for space-based reconnaissance, up from $78 million the previous year.”

President Could Avoid Waldorf Over Espionage Concerns

“Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has stayed in the presidential suite on the 35th floor of the Waldorf Astoria New York in Manhattan,” writes Yahoo News, but “That may all be about to change.”

“President Barack Obama is on track to skip the Waldorf this fall when he heads to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly… While the officials would not say so explicitly, they strongly indicated that the decision to reevaluate the historic relationship with the Waldorf was tied to the hotel’s sale to China’s Anbang Insurance Group, approved by U.S. regulators earlier this year.”

“While Hilton will continue to operate the property for 100 years, one U.S. official linked the American decision to relocate the president to worries about Chinese espionage and to the announcement of an upcoming “major renovation” at the hotel that could provide an opportunity to install surveillance gear.”

Ex-Im Bank Critical for National Security

Congress leaves town this week for the Independence Day holiday without renewing the Export-Import Bank charter, putting the livelihoods of thousands of hard working Americans at risk.

Boeing is one of the many U.S. exporters that are competitively disadvantaged without Ex-Im. Airlines have been telling Boeing for months that they are concerned about the potential demise of Ex-Im and the impact that could have on their ability to finance purchases of U.S.-made airplanes. Uncertainty over Ex-Im’s future is giving airlines a reason to buy from Airbus. All of Boeing’s foreign competitors have government export credit agencies backing their sales.

Commercial airplanes are America’s number one manufactured export, supporting more than 160,000 jobs at Boeing and another 1.5 million jobs in its U.S. supply chain. Eliminating the bank would weaken the U.S. aerospace sector and cede sales, market share and high-tech jobs to countries like France and China. It also would risk losing skills and knowledge that are essential to national security. More and more defense products are being built on commercial platforms – the Navy’s P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft and the new Air Force KC-46 tanker, for example.

Opponents of Ex-Im casually dismiss such arguments, saying the private sector will do what Ex-Im does. They ignore the fact that companies like Boeing cannot perform the role of a bank and still have the capital needed to develop new products – especially commercial airplane products that require billions of dollars to bring to market.

They also ignore what commercial banks have said repeatedly, which is that they are in no position to compensate for Ex-Im should Congress let it expire. Commercial banks have limits on how much they can lend any one customer or industry. Boeing’s customers sometimes fall outside of those limits, either because they are in developing regions that are last in line for commercial loans, or because they are growing fast and can secure loans for additional airplane purchases only if a government agency like Ex-Im is willing to guarantee the loan.

Too risky, some might say? Ex-Im’s track record for loan defaults is actually better than most commercial banks – less than 2 percent during 80 years of operations, and less that one-quarter of one percent last year. The airline default rate on Ex-Im-backed loans is especially low – close to zero. Ex-Im has a rigorous vetting process, and with the fees it collects for its services it not only is able to cover all of its own expenses, but earn a sizable profit for the U.S. Treasury.

There are a lot of good reasons for reauthorizing Ex-Im and absolutely no good reasons for letting it die. Most members of Congress know that. They should be given a chance to vote on an Ex-Im reauthorization bill. Read more at

DHS, FBI Focus on Sectors Most Vulnerable to Cyber Threats

Inside Cybersecurity reports that the “greatest cyber risks to U.S. national security involve about a third of the country’s 16 critical infrastructure sectors.”

“The bureau’s cybersecurity outreach program for critical infrastructure is focused on six sectors – banking and finance, energy, transportation, information technology, communications and public health – the program’s leader, Stacy Stevens, said during a June 9 public meeting of cybersecurity professionals … The FBI official’s comments, as well as documents obtained by Inside Cybersecurity under the Freedom of Information Act, shed new light on how U.S. authorities view cyber risks in industry, a subject shrouded in secrecy that some argue is excessive.”

“It omits the names of the specific sectors and infrastructure deemed most vulnerable, but reveals that a DHS working group identified ’61 entities in five critical infrastructure sectors where a cybersecurity incident could reasonably result in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.'”

Former Top Officials Pen Letter to Obama on Iran Negotiations

“Five former members of President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem Iran’s nuclear program ‘may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a “good” agreement,'” The New York Times reports.

“The substance of the letter is less notable for what it says — the positions were frequent talking points for the Obama administration before it faced the inevitable compromises involved in negotiations — than for the influence of its signatories. Among them is Dennis B. Ross, a longtime Middle East negotiator who oversaw Iran policy at the White House during the first Obama term; David H. Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director who oversaw covert operations against Iran until he resigned two years ago; and Robert Einhorn, a longtime State Department proliferation expert who helped devise and enforce the sanctions against Iran.”

US Clarifies Stance on Hostage Negotiations

“President Barack Obama conceded Wednesday that the U.S. government had let down the families of Americans held hostage by terrorists and promised they would not face criminal prosecution for paying ransoms to their loved ones’ captors,” according to the Associated Press.

“The president said for the first time that U.S. government officials can communicate directly with terrorists and help families negotiate for the release of hostages. More than 30 Americans are being held hostage abroad, White House officials said.”

“The review was sparked by sharp criticism of the Obama administration from families of Americans kidnapped by the Islamic State, al-Qaida and other groups. Families have complained about receiving confusing and contradictory information from the government and bristled at threats of prosecution for considering paying terrorists to secure the release of hostages.”

It’s Boom Time: KC-46 tanker program reaches milestones with refueling booms

The KC-46 program completed two key refueling boom milestones recently. Its first test aircraft (EMD1) took to the skies with the refueling boom and wing air refueling pods installed. The airworthiness flight was the first with refueling equipment. During the four hour flight from Boeing Field to Paine Field in Washington, pilots and engineers examined how the aircraft handled with the extra hardware attached. The flight, with the boom and wing pods installed on the aircraft, tested aerodynamics and performance rather than the functionality of the refueling elements, which were not operational.

Additionally, the program’s second test plane (EMD2) is well on its way to becoming a truly militarized tanker aircraft.  Boeing employees installed the fully-functional advanced refueling boom, with the wing pods to follow soon.  Once completed, the aircraft will be able to carry 31,000 gallons of fuel and have the ability to fuel multiple aircraft simultaneously—a capability that offers flexibility in the battlefield.  The test flight of the first fully outfitted test plane is scheduled for later this summer.

Check out the 767-2C (EMD1) in flight and get a behind-the-scenes look inside the factory at a boom installation in this video:

New Hostage Policy Could Reduce Focus on Hostages

Noah Feldman writes that the Obama administration’s “adoption of the new, more humane policy” on hostage negotiations is also “occasion to remind ourselves of the social costs of too much public handwringing over the fate of American hostages.”

“The example to avoid is Israel, where the return of a single soldier taken by Hamas, Gilad Shalit, became a national obsession. Shalit was ultimately returned to Israel in exchange for a stunning 1,027 prisoners in Israeli custody… That’s why President Barack Obama was also wise not to appoint a prominent hostage czar to become the public face of family coordination and negotiation. Such an appointment would’ve drawn too much attention to future hostage situations.”

“The right way to deal with hostages is low-key — away from the headlines. The government shouldn’t block families from negotiating. But our media culture also shouldn’t make the families into national figures with outsize political pull.”

Hoverbikes Could Join the Military Arsenal

The Guardian looks at new personal hoverbikes that have drawn interest from the U.S. military.

“The hoverbike, remote-controlled versions of which are already flying, is heavily based on drone technology, powered by four bladed fans in protective casings. The design is intended to provide stability, speed and, the company hopes, the same range as a small helicopter.”

“The company is to set up a base in Maryland so it can develop the hoverbike closer to the US military, and it is working on the design with the US firm Survice… As yet, the creation, officially called the Hoverbike Helicopter, does not have a price or a target date for the first deliveries.”

Sign In

Forgot password?



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

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...