Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
September 21, 2014

USAF Withdraws ‘So Help Me God’ Requirement from Oath

Air Force Times reports that “the Air Force has withdrawn a requirement that all airmen who take the oath of enlistment and officer appointment conclude with “so help me God,” the service announced Wednesday.”

“The Air Force previously allowed airmen to omit those words, but removed that option in October based on its interpretation of 10 U.S.C. 502, 5 U.S.C. 3331 and Title 32, which contain the oaths of office. The Navy, Army and Marine Corps allow their service members to omit ‘so help me God,’ spokesmen for all three services told Air Force Times last week.”

“The Air Force sought a legal review of the rule by the Defense Department’s General Counsel on Sept. 9, five days after the American Humanist Association announced it was representing an unnamed atheist airman, stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, who was denied reenlistment for refusing to say, or sign a form, stating ‘so help me God.’”

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European Military Outlook if Scotland Votes ‘Yes’

Stars and Stripes reports that “Britain will have to seek alternative locations for its nuclear submarines should Scotland vote for independence Thursday if NATO is to maintain a nuclear deterrent with more than just U.S. firepower.”

Britain has no existing infrastructure capable of meeting the security requirements for hosting nuclear warheads and the submarines that can fire them except for the Scottish base in Faslane, experts say.”

“’The problem is, there are no easy alternatives,’ said Angus Ross, a retired Royal Navy commander and professor at the U.S. Naval War College.”

New Combat Questions Around U.S. Military Role in Iraq

The Associated Press reports that “the White House and the Pentagon are grappling with how to explain what American military forces are doing and could do in Iraq as they battle the Islamic State militants.”

“Speaking at U.S. Central Command on Wednesday, President Barack Obama reiterated his pledge to keep American troops out of combat missions. But hours later, Vice President Joe Biden appeared to be less certain about ground troops.”

“‘We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes,”‘ Biden told reporters in Iowa.”

“Biden’s remarks echoed comments a day earlier from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, who said he may, if necessary, recommend to the president that U.S. ground forces accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against Islamic State targets, particularly in certain complex missions or if there were threats to the U.S.”

Boeing and DLA Embark on 10-year Logistics Partnership

image002Back in 2012, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) sent out a call to industry for “big ideas” to reduce costs by 20 percent and improve overall supply performance. Boeing responded, and will take the lead on several of the procurement processes now with the government for tactical, rotorcraft, surveillance and cargo aircraft.

Boeing received a $293 million performance-based contract this week for aircraft parts and support from DLA, which supplies the United States’ military’s logistical, acquisition and technical services with parts from screws to spare jet wings. The contract includes support for 11 different aircraft: the AH-64, AV-8, B-1, B-52, C-17, CH-47, E-3, E-6, F-15, F/A-18, KC-135 and ground support equipment.

Together, DLA and Boeing will continue collaborating on new ways to streamline processes, enhance performance and improve affordability as they begin this long-term partnership.

Senate Learns that Chinese Hacked U.S. Military Contractors

Reuters reports that “hackers associated with the Chinese government have repeatedly infiltrated the computer systems of U.S. airlines, technology companies and other contractors involved in the movement of U.S. troops and military equipment, a U.S. Senate panel has found.”

“The Senate Armed Services Committee’s year-long probe, concluded in March but made public on Wednesday, found the military’s U.S. Transportation Command, or Transcom, was aware of only two out of at least 20 such cyber intrusions within a single year.”

“The investigation also found gaps in reporting requirements and a lack of information sharing among U.S. government entities. That in turn left the U.S. military largely unaware of computer compromises of its contractors.”

Report: U.S. May Delay USAF Cuts in Europe

Stars and Stripes reports that “planned cuts to the U.S. military presence in Europe may be postponed because of concerns about Russian aggression, according to top defense officials.”

“’Currently there are changes to overseas forces on the books,’ but ‘I have talked to leadership here about a function to re-address those decisions because those … decisions were clearly made before’ Russia sent its forces into Ukraine, the commander of U.S. European Command told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.”

“’I see this building now moving towards a review of those decisions,’ Gen. Philip Breedlove said.”

Congress Ducks War Authorization Vote

Congress appears set to sprint for the exits after voting to fund President Barack Obama’s new war on ISIS — although not by name — after rejecting a smattering of calls from lawmakers to go on record explicitly debating and authorizing it, reports Roll Call.

The get-out-of-town votes could come Wednesday, as the nation celebrates Constitution Day, the brainchild of the late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was long the defender of Congress’ prerogatives, especially with regard to war.

“Sen. Byrd would be on the floor demanding that the United States Senate fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, which are debate, amend and vote,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one voice in a fairly small bipartisan group pushing unsuccessfully for a full debate and votes on the authorization to use military force before going home. “This is another act of cowardice, which contributes to the low esteem in which we’re held by the American people.”

NASA Selects Boeing for Next American Passenger Spacecraft

America has traveled to space for more than half a century and now we’re returning passengers to low-Earth orbit on a new spacecraft. NASA selected Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 to transport up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo to the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit destinations from U.S. soil starting in 2017.

Boeing will build three CST-100s, the first and only spacecraft to achieve Critical Design Review and Phase Two Spacecraft Safety Review, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will undergo a pad-abort test in 2016, an uncrewed flight in early 2017, and the first crewed flight to the ISS in mid-2017.

Check out this video about the CST-100 as America continues the dream to explore space:

Also visit Beyond Earth for more information about the latest developments on the space frontier.

Dempsey Opens Door to Ground Troops in ISIS Fight

Fox News reports that “Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey addressed the possibility of U.S. ground forces getting involved in the fight against the Islamic State during blunt testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. He said he would consider recommending that option if the international coalition being formed proves ineffective.”

“‘My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward,’ Dempsey said. ‘I believe that will prove true, but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.'”

“The comment is a departure from what Obama vowed in his address to the nation a week ago, and from what the president’s top spokesman said just one day before Dempsey’s testimony. And it marks the latest mixed message to emerge from the administration on the fight against ISIS, which for weeks U.S. military advisers have described in more urgent and dire terms than others in the administration.”

U.S. Military to Send 3,000 Personnel to Fight Ebola

The Associated Press reports that “the Obama administration is ramping up its response to West Africa’s Ebola crisis, preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.

President Barack Obama planned to announce the stepped up effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta amid alarm that the outbreak could spread and that the deadly virus could mutate into a more easily transmitted disease.

The new U.S. muscle comes after appeals from the region and from aid organizations for a heightened U.S. role in combatting the outbreak blamed for more than 2,200 deaths.

NPR explains why the Ebola outbreak presents “special challenges” for the U.S. military

US Army Expects to Improve Management of Cyber Soldiers

Defense News reports that “the US Army is closer than ever to introducing a cyber branch to better manage troops with highly sought skills in this area, according to a senior Army cyber official.”

“The branch, called Career Management Field 17, will draw on experts from the intelligence and signals community for dedicated cyber forces, said Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commander of US Army Cyber Command.”

“’What the Army is looking to do is to train and sustain the very high-speed cyber operators, in the range of offensive to defensive cyber operations,’ Pontius said.”

Partners Shaping the Future Air Force

image001The Air Force will celebrate its 67th birthday this week at the same time as the annual Air Force Association Air and Space Conference Technology and Exposition (AFA). It’s an opportunity for partners, including Boeing, to demonstrate how they will help the Air Force shape its future by offering innovative, affordable products and solutions.

The Air Force plays a critical role in our nation’s defense. Perhaps best known for operating bombers and fighter jets, they also play a key role in supporting the joint force. The Air Force provides our nation with surveillance via satellites and unmanned aircraft and is solely responsible for providing aerial refueling for all fixed wing aircraft.

With such broad responsibilities, the Air Force is working to stay on the cutting edge and look to partners and suppliers to offer the most innovative products at an affordable cost. At AFA, Boeing will feature its solution for the Air Force’s Next Generation Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), its newest tanker, the KC-46A, and the Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system.

The show also will spotlight legacy programs including the F-15 fighter, Minuteman missile guidance system and Wideband Global SATCOM satellite. During the Air Force Anniversary dinner on Sept. 17, Boeing will receive the 2014 John R. Alison Award for outstanding contributions by industrial leadership in national defense for the development of the C-17 Globemaster III.

Boeing Defense, Space & Security CEO Chris Chadwick also will give a speech Sept. 17 about the evolving defense industrial base.

War Powers Resolution Nags a Reluctant Congress

In his Sept. 10 address to the nation, President Barack Obama asserted he already had authority to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but would welcome congressional action to underscore the U.S. commitment, reports Roll Call. Leaders of both parties in Congress, while supportive of the president’s aims, visibly balked at holding a direct vote to authorize military action, at least before the midterm elections. It was a rare profile in bipartisanship if not courage.

To date, the president has been pursuing a limited mission to protect American personnel and threatened religious minorities in Iraq. Obtaining a full-fledged congressional debate and vote for wider military action would both educate the public and fulfill Congress’ responsibilities under the war powers resolution. Failure to pass such a measure, however, would throw the administration’s foreign policy credibility into further disarray.

A year to the day before his Sept. 10 address to the nation, the president asked Congress for authority to enforce his “red line” against Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people. Congress made clear then it didn’t want such a vote and that, if taken, it would fail. Before the matter came to a head the confrontation was preempted by a Russian-brokered deal with the Assad regime.

How Qatar Aids U.S. Military

The Associated Press reports that “just miles from where former Guantanamo Bay terror suspects have resettled, American warplanes take off from Qatar’s al-Udeid air base in the global war on extremism.”

“The contrast in images illustrates why tiny but rich Qatar is an intriguing player in what President Barack Obama says will be a long battle to stop and eventually destroy the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.”

“Qatar plays an outsize role as a U.S. military partner. It gained public praise from Obama for brokering the controversial deal that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity in May in exchange for the release of five senior Taliban officials who had been imprisoned for years at the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Qatar promised Obama it would keep the five under watch for one year, although they would then be free to leave. The Obama administration also praised Qatar for its role in securing the release of extremist hostage Peter Theo Curtis.”

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