Posts Tagged ‘Air Force’

Pentagon Had Spurned U.S. Space Force, Prompting Trump’s Decree

June 24, 2018

After White House directive, military moderated previous concerns about cost, integration

President Donald Trump speaks as Defense Secretary James Mattis listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Thursday.
President Donald Trump speaks as Defense Secretary James Mattis listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Thursday.PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

President Donald Trump’s call this week for a separate U.S. “space force” was the culmination of months of frustration over what he felt was a lack of Pentagon action on his initial suggestions about the topic, according to people familiar with the decision.

The announcement on Monday—which surprised many military officials, senior aerospace industry executives and lawmakers—went against well-known opposition by Pentagon leaders to the idea of establishing  a new branch of the U.S. armed forces.

The week before, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and the service’s senior commanders gathered for a strategy session in Dayton, Ohio, but none had an inkling about Mr. Trump’s impending announcement on Monday, according to one of these people, who attended the sessions.

The evolution of Mr. Trump’s idea of a space force, the people familiar with the issue said, reflects his management style. He occasionally offers seemingly ad hoc ideas in public, but at some point expects aides and cabinet officials to follow up with specific implementation plans.

If Mr. Trump feels appointees are dragging their feet, he may suddenly demand action, sometimes in a dramatic and public fashion. That was the case with the space force.

“He doesn’t forget, and ultimately erupts when he feels slighted,” according to one former high-level industry and government official close to the Trump administration. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

White House consideration of creating a sixth branch of the armed forces stretches back at least to March, when Mr. Trump gave a speech at a Southern California air base raising that prospect. During his initial discussions with aides, Mr. Trump said in remarks then, “I was not really serious.” But then: “I said, ‘What a great idea; maybe we’ll have to do that.’ ”

Proponents contend the change is essential because the current airplane-focused structure hasn’t responded adequately to fast-growing threats outside the atmosphere.

On May 1, Mr. Trump returned to the topic, this time at a White House reception. “We’re actually thinking of a sixth” branch of the armed services, Mr. Trump said then, “and that would be the space force.”

In those tentative sets of remarks, Mr. Trump appeared to take at least some of the credit for a concept the House included last year as part of its national defense authorization bill.

That proposal, to carve out a dedicated “space corps” from the Air Force—much like the Marine commandant answers to the civilian head of the Navy—failed to become law, as the Senate subsequently stripped it from the legislation.

Senior Air Force civilian leaders and top Pentagon officials had urged senators to block the provision.

“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a 2017 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Trump revived the idea with his comments in March and again in May, although Air Force leaders remained noncommittal in congressional testimony and in other venues.

Asked to evaluate Mr. Trump’s proposal during a House defense appropriations subcommittee hearing after Mr. Trump’s March speech, Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, said: “I’m really looking forward to the conversation.”

As the Pentagon continued to study the issue, its basic message was: “This will happen, but now is not the time,” according to the person who participated in the high-level Air Force strategy session.

Behind the scenes, Air Force brass continued to debate the pros and cons, with some commanders urging a more open-minded approach, according to the people familiar with the issue. But ultimately, the consensus was that it was premature to immediately move toward a space force.

To show the Air Force was serious about change, however, service leaders put together a plan to revamp their problem-plagued acquisition system and reinforce the importance of a new military culture emphasizing space warfighting. But that blueprint stopped short of supporting a separate “space force.”

At a conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., in mid-April, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told reporters the service was determined to become more nimble in counteracting aggressive Chinese and Russian space initiatives.

One of his top supporters, Lt. Gen. John Thompson, head of the Air Force’s sprawling satellite and missile purchasing command, said at the same news conference that he was seeking ways to cut costs and accelerate deployment of hardware. But he acknowledged that “in the short term, you’re not going to see anything different” in how the Air Force procures multibillion-dollar satellite constellations.

In his Monday announcement, Mr. Trump sharply upped the pressure, saying: “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

He added: “That’s a big statement.”

The Pentagon’s stance shifted, with a senior military official saying in response: “The Joint Staff will work closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, other DoD stakeholders and the Congress to implement the president’s guidance.”

The Pentagon hasn’t created a new service since the Air Force was begun in 1947. In the end, it may not be a high-cost proposition, said Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.

“All we are talking about doing is reorganizing forces that already exist,” he said. “It does not necessarily mean any significant increase in funding, it just pulls money out of one place and puts it in another place.”

Defense personnel dedicated to space issues include roughly 30,000 people assigned to Air Force Space Command, which is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Approximately 3,000 individuals are based at the service’s Space and Missile Systems Center, in Los Angeles.

A number of other government organizations likely would be involved in the creation of a new space force, according to one military official. Possibilities include the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, or NGA, and others.

Although the Pentagon’s public stance is less skeptical than previously, Mr. Mattis indicated later in the week that Mr. Trump’s request would take time and effort.

“It’s going to require legislation and a lot of detailed planning and we’ve not yet begun,” he told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. “I mean, we’ve clearly got to start the process.”

Write to Andy Pasztor at and Gordon Lubold at


Why Being a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative

May 31, 2018

By Rob Henderson

Mr. Henderson served in the Air Force before going to Yale, where he majored in psychology. He graduated on Monday.

The New York Times
May 21, 2018

There aren’t many conservative students at Yale: fewer than 12 percent, according to a survey by our student newspaper. There are fewer former foster children. I am one of the rare students on campus who can claim both identities.

My unusual upbringing has shaped my conservatism. My birth mother was addicted to drugs. As a young child, I spent five years in foster care. At age 7, I was adopted, but for a long time after that I was raised in broken homes.

Foster care, broken homes and military service have fashioned my judgments. My experiences drive me to reflect on what environments are best for children. Certainly not the ones I came from.

Where I came from can be understood through my name: Robert Kim Henderson. All three names were taken from different adults.

Robert comes from my supposed biological father. The only information I have about him is his name from a document provided by a social worker responsible for my case when I was a foster child.

My middle name, Kim, comes from my biological mother. It was her family name. She succumbed to drug addiction, rendering her unable to care for me.

Image result for Rob Henderson, photos, being a foster child
Rob Henderson

And my last name: Henderson. It comes from my former adoptive father. After my adoptive mother left him, he severed ties with me in order to hurt her. He figured that my emotional pain from his desertion would be transmitted to my adoptive mother. He was right. The three people who gave me their names have something in common: All abandoned me. None took responsibility.

Last year, a fellow student told me I was a victim. Yale is the only place where someone has said this to me. I responded that if someone had told me I was a victim when I was a kid, I would never have made it to the Air Force, where I served for eight years, or to Yale. I would have given up. When I was 10, a teacher told me that if I applied myself, I could alter my future. This advice changed my life. From my response, my fellow student inferred that I was not as progressive as him. As our conversation unfolded, he asked, “What does it actually mean to be a conservative?”

For me, the answer is that people who came before us weren’t stupid. They were stunted in many ways. But not in every way. Older people have insights worthy of our attention.

One piece of inherited wisdom is the value of the two-parent family. It’s not fashionable to talk about this. How people raise their children is a matter of preference. But it is not really up for debate that the two-parent home is, on average, better for children.

First, two parents can provide their children more resources, including emotional support, encouragement and help with homework. One conscientious parent, no matter how heroic, cannot do the work of two. Second, single-parent households have a lower standard of living, which is associated with lower school grades and test scores.

Here is an example of the success of intact families from one of my psychology classes. The professor asked students to anonymously respond to a question about parental background. Out of 25 students, only one student besides me did not grow up in a traditional two-parent family. It’s no accident that most of my peers at Yale came from intact families.

Outcomes are worse for foster children. Ten percent of them enroll in college, and 3 percent graduate. To my knowledge, among more than 5,000 undergraduates at Yale my senior year, the number of former foster children was under 10.

Along with taking accumulated wisdom seriously, I understand conservative philosophy to mean that the role of the individual in making decisions and undertaking obligations is paramount. Individuals have rights. But they also have responsibilities.

For instance, when I say parents should prioritize their children over their careers, there is a sense of unease among my peers. They think I want to blame individuals rather than a nebulous foe like poverty. They are mostly right. Many people who come from privilege do not like placing blame on ordinary people. They prefer to blame ideologies, institutions, abstractions.

A cynical interpretation of this attitude is that some students want to keep the competition down. Fewer children raised in good families means less competition for those at the top.

My skin crawls when people use me as an example of a person who can shoulder the burdens of a nontraditional upbringing and succeed. They use my success as an argument for lax attitudes about parenting. But I am one of the lucky ones.

Many people have asked me how I turned out to be relatively successful, given my turbulent childhood. My answer is simple: During adolescence, I had the benefit of two parents, my adoptive mother and her partner, and I believed I had control of my future.

My adoptive mother and her partner raised me from middle school through high school in the early to mid-2000s in a rural California town called Red Bluff. They made a stable home for me. We had dinner together every weeknight. We talked about minutiae. They would ask me, “How was school today?” And I would respond with the usual “It was fine.” They gave me unsolicited advice. I was sarcastic in response. And we loved one another.

I experienced a stable family, if only for a few years. Though they experienced homophobia and struggled financially, they never let it get in the way of doing the right thing for their son.

Ordinary adults taking responsibility made all the difference for me. I maintain that the agency of individuals will lead to fewer impoverished childhoods.

If today that makes me a conservative, great. I take responsibility for that.

Rob Henderson, who served in the Air Force, graduated on Monday from Yale, where he majored in psychology.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Life as a Foster Child Made Me a Conservative. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
Image result for memorial day, photos

Pentagon looks to counter ever-stealthier warfare

March 24, 2018


© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / by Sylvie LANTEAUME | Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has warned that both Russia and China are experimenting with ways to take out the US military’s satellites

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military has for years enjoyed a broad technological edge over its adversaries, dominating foes with superior communications and cyber capabilities.

Now, thanks to rapid advances by Russia and China, the gap has shrunk, and the Pentagon is looking at how a future conflict with a “near-peer” competitor might play out.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson recently warned that both Russia and China are experimenting with ways to take out the US military’s satellites, which form the backbone of America’s warfighting machine.

“They know that we are dominant in space, that every mission the military does depends on space, and in a crisis or war they are demonstrating capabilities and developing capabilities to seek to deny us our space assets,” Wilson said.

“We’re not going to let that happen.”

The Pentagon is investing in a new generation of satellites that will provide the military with better accuracy and have better anti-jamming capabilities.

Such technology would help counter the type of “asymmetric” warfare practised by Russia, which combines old-school propaganda with social media offensives and cyber hacks.

Washington has blamed Moscow for numerous cyber attacks, including last year’s massive ransomware attack, known as NotPetya, which paralyzed thousands of computers around the world.

Little Green Men invaded Crimea — Photo: Sergey Ponomarev

US cyber security investigators have also accused the Russian government of a sustained effort to take control of critical US infrastructure systems, including the energy grid.

Russia denies involvement and so far, such attacks have been met with a muted US military response.

– Public relations shutdown –

General John Hyten, who leads US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told lawmakers the US has “not gone nearly far enough” in the cyber domain.

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General John Hyten

He also warned that the military still does not have clear authorities and rules of engagement for when and how it can conduct offensive cyber ops.

“Cyberspace needs to be looked at as a warfighting domain, and if somebody threatens us in cyberspace, we need to have the authorities to respond,” Hyten told lawmakers this week.

Hyten’s testimony comes after Admiral Michael Rogers, who heads both the NSA — the leading US electronic eavesdropping agency — and the new US Cyber Command, last month said President Donald Trump had not yet ordered his spy chiefs to retaliate against Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Russia has also been blamed for the March 4 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in England.

NATO countries are working to determine when a cyber attack might trigger the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense provision, General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of NATO forces in Europe, said this month.

Image result for u.s. satellites, photos

NATO “recognizes the difficulty in indirect or asymmetric activity that Russia is practising, activities below the level of conflict,” Scaparrotti said.

In 2015, the Air Force opened the highly secretive National Space Defense Center in Colorado, where airmen work to identify potential threats to America’s satellite network.

After officials told a local newspaper, The Gazette, that the center had started running on a 24-hour basis, Air Force higher ups grew alarmed that too much information had been revealed.

In an example of how sensitive the issue of cybersecurity now is, the Air Force reacted by putting its entire public operations department on a “stand down” while it reviews how it interacts with journalists.


Air Force fires commander of Thunderbirds flight team

November 30, 2017


By Daniel Uria  |  Nov. 29, 2017 at 7:14 PM

Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Heard was relieved of his duty as commander of the Thunderbirds flight team due to a loss of confidence, the service announced. Photo by Zachary Cacicia/Air Force

Nov. 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force fired the head of its Thunderbirds flight team citing a loss of confidence, the service announced Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Jason Heard was been relieved of command of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron as of Nov. 20, after he “lost confidence” in his leadership and risk management style, the Thunderbirds said.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one that is ultimately in the best interests of the Thunderbird team. I am personally grateful for Jason’s dedication to the 2017 season,” Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, 57th Wing Commander, said.

Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, the Thunderbird’s 2016-17 operations officer, temporarily assumed Heard’s role as the Thunderbirds begin preparations for the 2018 season.

Heard was commander when an Air Force pilot and tactical maintenance worker were hospitalized after a fighter jet flipped over on the runway and crashed. They were practicing for the USAF Thunderbird Air Demonstration Squadron airshow at Dayton International Airport in Ohio.

Squadron spokesman Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz told Heard’s firing was unrelated to the crash in Dayton.

“This decision was based on Brig. Gen. Leavitt having lost confidence in Lt. Col. Heard’s leadership in risk management style,” Boitz said. “While he led a highly successful 2017 show season featuring 72 demonstrations over 39 show sites, concerns arose that his approach to leading the team was resulting in increased risk within the demonstration which eroded the team dynamic.”

This June 23, 2017, file photo shows a military jet that ran off a runway and flipped over following a practice flight for the Dayton Air Show at Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio. Ty Greenlees/Dayton Daily News via AP

This June 23, 2017, file photo shows a military jet that ran off a runway and flipped over following a practice flight for the Dayton Air Show at Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio. Ty Greenlees/Dayton Daily News via AP

See also:

F-16 Thunderbirds Crash Resulted from Wet Runway, Wind

Trump Takes Credit for Security Wins, Warns Allies Can Turn

November 23, 2017


By Margaret Talev

 Updated on 
  • In Thanksgiving remarks, says can’t know if ally could turn
  • He promises troops they’ll come home to a “good economy”
US President Donald Trump talks to reporters during his departure at the White House in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) Photographer: JIM WATSON/Getty Images

President Donald Trump, in a Thanksgiving address to troops, credited his policies for allowing progress in Afghanistan and against Islamic State, and warned about sending sophisticated weapons to American allies that one day could become the enemy.

“Everybody is talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” Trump told the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, during a morning video call from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around. We’re fighting to win. You’ve turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody has seen, and they are talking about it.”

Where candidate Trump had suggested U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq was a waste of time, one year later the Commander-In-Chief embraced tackling the conflicts and the notion of lasting U.S. military wins with continued engagement. He also promised the military officials that once they came home they would return to a good economy, job opportunities and hopefully “big, fat, beautiful tax cuts.”

Trump, speaking later Thursday morning during a visit to the coast guard station in Lake Worth Inlet in Florida, thanked a group of officers for rescuing people trapped by deadly storms that pummeled the southeastern U.S. coast this year, including Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. Trump touted planned new investments for the military, citing a $700 billion defense policy bill that Congress has sent for his signature.

Trump said his administration is ordering ships for the Navy and that the Air Force is getting new planes, including Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 fighter jets, which he said operated “almost like an invisible fighter.”

Invisible Plane

“I was asking the Air Force guys, I said how good is this plane?” said Trump. “You know, a fight, like I watch on the movies, a fight, they’re fighting, how good is this? They said, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it.”

He also said he’s changing the “sad” situation in which the U.S. defense industry had been selling its best equipment to foreign nations. “You know when we sell to other countries, even if they’re allies, you never know about an ally – an ally can turn,” he said. “I always say make ours a little bit better, give it that extra speed. Keep about 10 percent in the bag, because nobody has what we have.”

By video-conference call, Trump also greeted Marines in Iraq with a “Semper fi” — the Marine Corps motto, which means “always loyal” in Latin — and praised them for “delivering defeat after defeat to ISIS.” “We are being talked about again as an armed forces,” he said. “We are really winning, we know how to win. But we have to let you win.

“They weren’t letting you win before, they were letting you play even,” he said of his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Navy Address

He also addressed Navy members on the USS Monterey at sea, an Air Force expeditionary fighter squadron at Incirlik, Turkey, and Coast Guard members on USCG Wrangell at Kuwait Navy Base.

The president had a Thanksgiving message for journalists spending the holiday covering him. Promising the military they could have a confidential conversation once the press had been escorted from the room, Trump told the protective pool to “get out. And I’ll say, ‘You’re fired!’”

“And by the way, media, Happy Thanksgiving, I must say. Have a good Thanksgiving in Palm Beach, Florida.”

US Air Force Preparing for War in Space — “Next frontier of warfare” — Congress gives guidance — Lawmakers scrap ‘Space Corps’ proposal — “Stop … the drift toward a space Pearl Harbor.”

November 10, 2017

Lawmakers scrap ‘Space Corps’ proposal

Washington (CNN) — Congressional negotiators have rejected the House’s plan to create a new “Space Corps” — omitting the proposal for a new military branch under the umbrella of the Air Force from the final version of a nearly $700 billion bipartisan defense policy bill called the National Defense Authorization Act.

Despite support from House Armed Services Committee leaders — including chairman Mac Thornberry — the Space Corps proposal will not be included in the final NDAA for fiscal year 2018. Though the bill does contain language directing further long-term study of the issue, according to senior staff for both armed service committees, who briefed reporters on the contents of the bill Wednesday.
The proposal, which was included in the House’s National Defense Authorization Act, would have set up a Space Corps in the mold of the Marine Corps, which is a separate military branch that’s housed within the Navy.
An artist's rendering of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. AEHF-1 launched Aug. 14, 2010 and reached its operational geosynchronous earth orbit Oct. 24, 2011. (Courtesy photo Space and Missile Systems Center)
An artist’s rendering of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. AEHF-1 launched Aug. 14, 2010 and reached its operational geosynchronous earth orbit Oct. 24, 2011. (Courtesy photo Space and Missile Systems Center)
The authors of the idea argued that a separate and dedicated force devoted to space is needed to keep the US ahead of adversaries like Russia and China in the still-emerging domain of space war, arguing the Air Force is primarily devoted to fighting in the air, rather than space.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman who proposed the idea, has argued that the Air Force was prioritizing its fighter jets over space, and a dedicated service was needed to stay ahead of China and Russia in what many see as the next frontier of warfare.
But the idea was opposed by Pentagon leaders and the White House, who argued the idea was premature and needed more study.
Defense Secretary James Mattis even took the rare step of writing a letter supporting an amendment to remove the Space Corps from the House’s version of policy bill earlier this year.
“It’s unusual for us to write on an issue like that,” Mattis told reporters in July. “I don’t want to say anymore right now. I leave that to Congress — I made known what I think and now we’ll leave it to Congress and their legislative role.”
Ultimately, the Space Corps plan was left out of the FY2018 NDAA which authorizes a total of $692.1 billion in discretionary budget authority — approximately $626.4 billion in base budget authority and roughly $65.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), senior staffers said.
But negotiators did include a series of management and procedural changes to the existing Air Force space programs in an effort to “begin fixing the broken national security space enterprise,” according to a summary of the bill.
Incorporating the work of several of the lawmakers behind the House’s Space Corps plan, the changes are meant to streamline Air Force acquisition authorities, eliminate burdensome red tape, empower a single accountable organization for space forces within the Air Force and place renewed emphasis on the organization and management of space in the Department of Defense.
The bill also looks to hold the Deputy Secretary of Defense responsible for the full and faithful execution of these improvements by requiring oversight by a federally-funded research and development corporation that is not affiliated with the Air Force.
A contract will require the deputy secretary to “provide Congress with a roadmap to establish a separate military department responsible for national security space activities of the DoD,” according to the summary.
“We are pleased the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 takes the first step in fundamentally changing and improving the national security space programs of the Department of Defense and the US Air Force in particular,” said Rogers and HASC ranking member Rep. Jim Cooper in a joint statement Wednesday.
“The Air Force will no longer be able to treat space as a third-order priority after fighter jets and bombers,” the statement said. “We have consolidated leadership and coordination between operations, acquisition and training, and eliminated the decentralized and ineffective structure that for too long hampered our space capabilities and readiness.”
But Rogers and Cooper also noted that the changes outlined in the NDAA are just a starting point when it comes to rethinking the way the US military prioritizes the space domain.
This is just the first step. We will not allow the United States national security space enterprise to continue to drift toward a space Pearl Harbor,” they said.
In addition to changes in space-related policy, the bill would also fully authorize a pay increase for service members, increase missile defense, and add additional ships and aircraft.
“The bill fully funds the 2.4% pay raise our troops are entitled to under law while blocking the President’s ability to reduce troop pay,” according to the summary.
It authorizes funding for a wide variety of additional military hardware including 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the service branches — 20 more than requested by President Donald Trump’s initial budget — and three additional Littoral Combat Ships.
The bill also “adds $4.4 billion above the President’s initial budget request to meet critical missile defense needs” — authorizing up to 28 additional ground-based Interceptors and “requiring the Missile Defense Agency to develop a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense,” according to the summary.
However, the bill would also set defense spending well above the $549 billion cap under the Budget Control Act and Senate Democrats have vowed to block major increases to defense spending without equal increases for domestic programs.
That fight will occur later this year over the defense appropriations bill, which is a separate piece of legislation that allocates spending for the Pentagon.
The collaborative NDAA bill unveiled Wednesday will be sent back to the House and Senate for another vote in the coming weeks.

National Defense Authorization Act blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise.” — “A clear rebuke of … Air Force leadership.”

November 10, 2017
Defense bill directs Air Force space shake-up

The House and Senate Armed Services committees are splitting their differences over the proposed creation of a Space Corps and sending a strong message about the state of Air Force space leadership. Instead of creating a corps—proposed as part of the Air Force similar to the way the Marine Corps is embedded within the Navy—a conference version of the bill to authorize Pentagon policy in fiscal 2018 would dismantle the Air Force’s current management of space. It would …

Read the rest (Paywall):


Space reforms coming: 2018 NDAA drops legislative bombshells on U.S. Air Force

by  — 

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The National Defense Authorization Act blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise.”

WASHINGTON — For the military space world, the big headline from Capitol Hill Wednesday was that the final version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act does not, at least for now, require the Pentagon to create a new “space corps.”

This might seem like a victory for the Air Force. Senior leaders had fought back the House space corps provision that would have effectively taken away from the Air Force its ownership of military space.

It’s a hollow victory, however. The 2018 NDAA is big on Pentagon reforms, across the board, but it hammered the Air Force especially hard.

The NDAA conference report blasts the Air Force for a “broken national security space enterprise,” strips key authorities from the service and shifts much of the management of military space to the deputy secretary of defense.

The leaders of the defense committees said in a statement they are “proud of the bipartisan process that led to this conference report, which took hard work and thoughtful collaboration from members on both sides of the aisle.”

The full text of the bill should be released Thursday. The House will consider the measure next week and the Senate said in plans to take it up before the Thanksgiving recess.

The House called the legislation a step toward “fundamental reform of national security space.” The NDAA language bears the heavy footprint of Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

The report specifically calls for “streamlining Air Force acquisition authorities, eliminating burdensome red tape, empowering a single accountable organization for space forces within the Air Force, placing renewed emphasis on the organization and management of space in the DoD, and holding the deputy secretary of defense responsible for the full and faithful execution of these improvements.”

New role for Space Command

The NDAA empowers Air Force Space Command as the sole authority for organizing, training, and equipping all U.S. Air Force space forces. Air Force Space Command is made the focal point for a “space service” within the Air Force responsible for acquisition, resources and requirements.” This cadre of space “war fighters” would be tasked to fix the “systemic problems Congress identified in the national security space enterprise.”

The Air Force Space Command would be modeled after the Office of Naval Reactors, stressing deep technical expertise. The bill gives the commander of Air Force Space Command a six-year term.

The NDAA delivers a direct blow to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson by stripping her of the role of top space adviser to the secretary of defense and diminishing her power to set budget priorities. The report characterizes the secretary’s office as “burdensome and ineffective bureaucracy.”

The legislation eliminates the principal defense space adviser, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff of the Air Force for space operations — a newly created office the NDAA report derides as a “hastily developed half-measure that at best only added a box on the organizational chart.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan would assign a manager to oversee space budget priorities, “but such official cannot be the secretary of the Air Force.”

The space corps is being put on hold, but Rogers is not giving up on the idea. Shanahan is being directed to hire a federally funded research-and-development corporation — one that is not affiliated with the Air Force — to provide Congress with a “roadmap to establish a separate military department responsible for national security space activities of the DoD.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report is just as critical of the current space organization.

“Decision making with respect to space is currently fragmented across more than 60 offices in DoD,” said the conference report. It points out research-and-development funding for space programs is at a 30-year low, while the “threats in and our reliance on space are at their highest and growing.” Space programs are “programmatically unsynchronized across systems in orbit, ground stations, and terminals.”

The NDAA renames the operationally responsive space program office as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the head of which reports to Air Force Space Command.

On future space launch investments, the NDAA, as it has in previous years, states that funds for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program should focus on the development of a domestic rocket propulsion system to replace the Russian RD-180 engine that United Launch Alliance currently uses to power the Atlas 5, the Air Force’s workhorse rocket.

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Russian RD-180 engine

The House Armed Services Committee said it “continues to view the nation’s assured access to space as a national security priority. This includes a continued focus on the development of a new U.S. rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 engine.” The committee also cautioned it will monitor how the Air Force spends EELV dollars to “ensure that DoD funds authorized for the development of existing and planned commercial launch vehicles are spent primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements.”

What’s Next

Industry consultant Mike Tierney, of Jacques & Associates, said these reforms are likely to become law although the Air Force and DoD as a last recourse could approach the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee (SAC-D) and request help delaying implementation.

However, Tierney said, “given that the NDAA is a conferenced policy position of the House and Senate, the SAC-D would be very hesitant to wade into what is strictly policy changes with no appropriations implications. Our assessment is that the changes directed in the NDAA conference will have to be implemented by the DoD and the Air Force.”

Aerospace industry analyst Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, commented that the NDAA “doesn’t simply reject the space corps. It slaps the Air Force pretty hard and appears to lay the groundwork for creating a separate department for national security space in the future.”

He called the NDAA a “clear rebuke of the current space organization within DoD and a lack of confidence in the Air Force leadership.”

On the removal of space oversight and budget functions from the secretary of the Air Force, Harrison tweeted: “Ouch.”

Pentagon Takes Control of F-35 Cost-Cutting Push

October 8, 2017

The price of the combat jet has been falling, but some military chiefs are concerned about the pace and source of savings

Image result for F-35, photos

The Pentagon has taken over an effort to cut the cost of the F-35 combat jet, after rejecting plans proposed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and its partners, as it tries to make a program estimated to cost $400 billion more affordable.

The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. But after years of delays and overruns drew flak from lawmakers and Donald Trump, the military has been pressing suppliers to reduce the cost of producing and flying the F-35.

The aircraft’s sticker price has fallen in recent sales to the U.S. and other countries, in part because of a contractor-led effort launched in 2014 called the Blueprint for Affordability that invested $170 million to make the jets cheaper to produce.

Lockheed and the Pentagon announced plans in July 2016 to continue the program, with the company and partners Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems PLC investing another $170 million over three years in cost-saving measures. The contractors said the initial plan saved $230 million and could be worth $4 billion over the life of the program.

Some military chiefs, however, have expressed concern about the pace and source of savings. In January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also ordered a review of the high-profile program.

The Pentagon opted this summer not to press ahead with the extension and instead last month gave Maryland-based Lockheed a $60 million contract to pursue further efficiency measures, with more oversight of how the money was spent.

“Using a contract vehicle instead of an agreement with industry provides the government with greater insights into the cost savings efforts,” said the F-35 program office, led since May by Navy Rear Adm. Mat Winter.

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II flies over Estonia in April. The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. Photo: Christine Groening/ZUMA Press

The F-35 leadership say they want more of the cost-saving effort directed at smaller suppliers that haven’t been pressured enough. A quarter of the initial $60 million is earmarked for projects outside the main three contractors. The Pentagon said it may boost its investment to $170 million if the initial efforts yield e nough savings.

Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. that makes the engines for the F-35, is continuing a separate effort to reduce costs.

The Pentagon has also yet to approve a plan announced last year for the three main companies to spend $250 million over five years to shave 10% off the running costs of the F-35 fleet over its lifetime, which are estimated to be more than $1.1 trillion for the U.S. aircraft. Allies plan to buy another 500 jets.

That huge bill led the Pentagon to consult with logistics experts at companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to find potential savings. President Trump, who frequently criticized the F-35 on the campaign trail and before taking office, also held multiple direct discussions with Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson.

The company has pledged to aggressively drive down the costs of the F-35 program, which is central to its growth and already delivers almost a quarter of its sales.

Lockheed said the new arrangement won’t affect those efforts, even as the efficiency drive has been hampered by the Air Force cutting its planned annual procurement to around 60 jets from 80.

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” said Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager.

The latest cost-saving push is part of a plan to reduce the price of the F-35A model—the plane used by the U.S. Air Force and most overseas allies—to around $80 million by 2020, after adjusting for inflation. Officials estimated that 75% of the target is tied to efficiencies gained from higher output, with the balance coming from efforts like the Blueprint for Affordability program.

Lockheed is currently negotiating a deal with the Pentagon for an 11th batch of jets, which it hopes to conclude by the end of the year. The last sale, agreed on in January, priced the F-35A at $94.6 million each, a 7.3% drop from the previous batch. That price was broadly in line with the Pentagon’s price target before Mr. Trump took aim at the program.

However, critics say the claimed prices don’t capture the full cost of the jets once additional modifications, added later, are included.

“There’s very little transparency about it,” said Dan Grazier, of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog.

Israel shows off F-35 stealth fighters for first time

May 2, 2017


© AFP | Israeli F-35 fighter jets perform during an air show in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 02, 2017 to mark Independence Day

TEL AVIV (AFP) – Israel showed off its new F-35 stealth fighter jets recently delivered from the United States on Tuesday as part of an air show marking its annual Independence Day celebrations.

Three of Israel’s five stealth fighters took to the skies along the Mediterranean coast off Tel Aviv as thousands of people gathered at the waterfront to watch.

The F-35s, made by US-based Lockheed Martin, were the highlight of the show, which marked 69 years of Israeli independence.

Israel has received the initial five jets since December with the aim of allowing it to maintain its military superiority in the turbulent Middle East, particularly regarding its arch-foe Iran.

It plans to purchase a total of 50 F-35s. Its first jets are to be operational this year.

While other countries have ordered the planes, Israel — which receives more than $3 billion a year in US defence aid — says it will be the first outside the United States with an operational F-35 squadron.

Israel is buying its first 33 F-35s at an average price of about $110 million (103.5 million euros) each — and the price tag has been criticised both in Israel and elsewhere.

Among its main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.

The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,200 miles per hour (1,900 kilometres per hour).

The pilot’s ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of about $400,000 each, includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the visor and is also shared elsewhere.

Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.

WH Economic Adviser Gary Cohn: ‘No Alternative but to Reinvest in Our Military’

March 13, 2017

Fox News

White House Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn was a guest on “Fox News Sunday” for an exclusive interview in which he discussed President Donald Trump’s vision for protecting the country.

Cohn said the previous administration under-invested in the military the past eight years.

“Unfortunately, we have no alternative but to reinvest in our military and make ourselves a military power once again,” Cohn said.

Cohn said Trump met over the last several weeks with generals from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to talk about the military’s preparedness. He said it has been disappointing to hear what these generals have had to say.

He said if funds are used to reinvest in the military, cuts need to be made elsewhere in order ensure a balanced budget without creating a further deficit.

“It’s no different than every other family in America that has to make the tough decision,” Cohn said. “When they need to spend money somewhere, they have to cut it from somewhere else. These are tough decisions, but the president has shown he is ready, willing and able to make these tough decisions.”

Watch the full interview with Cohn above.