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  • Netanyahu: Proposed Deal Would “Guarantee” Nuclear-Armed Iran

    ​Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015, warning about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. Screen shot photo.

    In a controversial address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal being negotiated between the United States and Iran would “all but guarantee” Iran gets nuclear weapons and “lots of them.” He said the deal, which has not yet been signed, “would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure,” that eventually would allow the country to “amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.” Netanyahu acknowledged the proposed deal does provide “certain restrictions,” which would be supervised by international inspectors. “But here’s the problem,” he said. “Inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.” He warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off a “nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet,” creating a crisscross of “nuclear tripwires” across the Middle East. Netanyahu said restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program should not be lifted until the country does three things: “First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world. And, third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.” President Obama said Netanyahu has made similar speeches before, yet “even Israeli intelligence officers and some members of the Israeli government have acknowledged that in fact [the interim deal] has kept Iran from further pursuing a nuclear program,” according to a pool report.

  • DMSP's Silent Spatter in Space

    ​A military weather satellite cracked up Feb. 3 after the power system overheated causing it to spin out of control, Air Force Space Command officials told Air Force Magazine in a statement released March 3.  The Joint Space Operations Center "identified a debris field" indicating Defense Meteorological Satellite Program flight 13 disintegrated into 43 bits of debris. "While the initial response is complete, JSpOC personnel will continue to assess this event to learn more about what happened and what it will mean for users within this orbit," Col. John Giles, JSpOC Director, said in the statement. DMSP 13 was the oldest operational satellite in the constellation, and was relegated to back-up status in 2006. Operators took action to "render the vehicle safe" soon after the temperature spike, and the debris does not appear to pose a collision risk to other space assets, according to the statement. JSpOC is continuing to monitor and warn of any potential risks, said AFSPC officials. The most recent DMSP satellite, DMSP 19, launched last April.

  • Carter, Dempsey Urge Sequester Repeal

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey implored members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday to undo sequestration once and for all. Carter said he shared the President’s desire to uphold the principles behind the Bipartisan Budget Act in this year’s defense legislation, saying it would be “unsafe and wasteful” to do otherwise. A funding profile based on BCA levels would mean wholesale changes in the “shape and size” of the US military over the next five years. As demands from the fight against ISIS to the actions of Russia in eastern Ukraine have piled more tasks on top of a US military reeling from sequester cuts, operational challenges have coupled with “restraints on our ability to reform,” Carter added, alluding to Pentagon proposals ranging from retirements to base closures, which Congress has repeatedly rejected. Carter emphasized he would not send US troops to war without adequate equipment, training, and support. However, if sequester continues, “I’m not afraid to ask the difficult questions, but our entire nation will have to live with the answers,” he said.

  • Contingencies and the Strategy

    Proposed Pentagon reforms on matters such as pay and benefits, equipment retirements, and other priorities are critical to sustaining the existing defense strategy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Oversea​s contingency operations dollars are funding operations and maintenance for missions ranging from Africa to the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, Carter noted. “It’s committed to the here and now,” he said, and sustaining these operations becomes problematic over the next five years if funding returns to Budget Control Act levels. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said he has submitted his “chairman’s risk assessment” along with the 2016 budget proposal to Congress, which shows “significant risk” to the 2012 defense strategic guidance. If DOD does not get its requested 2016 funding profile, which includes some $4.2 billion in reforms and savings (adding up to $40 billion over the next five years), the current military strategy becomes “unmanageable,” Dempsey warned.

  • USAF Budget Request Bolsters MILCON Funding

    The Air Force’s Fiscal 2015 budget accepts risks in installation support, military construction, and facilities sustainment in order to “strike the delicate balance between a ready force for today with a modern force for tomorrow,” but the Fiscal 2016 budget request looks to soften that blow by increasing funding in each of the three categories, said Miranda Ballentine, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and energy. The Air Force’s Fiscal 2016 budget request seeks $4.8 billion for military construction, facility sustainment, restoration, and modernization. That’s $1.9 billion more than the Fiscal 2015 President’s Budget request, according to Ballentine’s prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel on Tuesday. In addition, USAF requested $331 million for military family housing operations and maintenance and $160.5 million for military family housing construction. However, Ballentine cautioned that if sequester-level funding returns, the Air Force “would expect a reduction in military construction funding resulting in reduced support” to combatant commands, “reduced funding to upgrade the nuclear enterprise and support new weapons system beddown, and elimination of permanent party dormitories from the FY16 request,” according to the statement.

  • Assuring Syria CSAR

    US Central Command is considering putting more combat search and rescue assets into Turkey to reinforce the US’ ability to retrieve potential downed airmen from Iraq or Syria, CENTCOM boss Army Gen. Lloyd Austin testified on Tuesday. "I think we have adequate CSAR capability, but in this business there's no such thing as enough," said Austin during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on March 3. Former A-10 pilot, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), said, "I have concerns from talking to my colleagues in the military that there's a pretty damning after-action report from the Jordanian pilot situation." McSally acknowledged it “takes a very robust capability" to have rescue and close air support ready to "snatch them right away," and said there could be “disastrous consequences, not just for them and their family, but strategically for our country" if downed pilots aren’t picked up right away. Austin assured her he "won't put one pilot in the air" without "adequate means to recover those pilots." McSally said the dozen A-10s currently deployed in theater are the only "Sandy" assets capable of armed escort and rescue coordination.

  • Missouri Air Guardsmen Deploy to Qatar

    3/4/2015

    More than 100 members of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, in late February. While deployed aircrews, maintenance, and support personnel from the 180th Airlift Squadron and the 139th Maintenance Group along with a portion of the wing’s C-130 Hercules fleet will support Operation Inherent Resolve missions against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria, according to a March 3 release.

  • Raising Pegasus Pens

    3/4/2015

    Workers erect the steel beams that will hold the roof of Hangar 1126 on Feb. 24, 2015 at McConnell AFB, Kan. Air Force photo by A1C Christopher Thornbury.

    Builders are busy erecting three large hangars to house maintenance work on the future KC-46A Pegasus fleet at McConnell AFB, Kan. Workers laid concrete and are planning to raise the steel structure of Hangar 1126—the first of the trio—this week, according to a March 3 base release. "The hangars being built are a lot larger than the previous hangars were to accommodate the larger aircraft," said MSgt. Danny Rutland, KC-46 integration office maintenance representative. "The major difference is that these hangars have a corrosion facility being built that will have the capability to paint a full aircraft. We have never had that capability here at McConnell before," he added. The finished facilities will provide cover for up to six KC-46 tankers, and the first two are scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The third building is slated for completion in 2017, shortly after the first aircraft arrives, according to officials.

  • SIGAR Supplements January Report on Afghan Military

    Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko released a supplement Tuesday to his January quarterly report to Congress, criticizing the Defense Department for “inconsistent” reporting practices and lack of key figures. NATO’s Operation Resolute Support Commander, Army Gen. John Campbell, told SIGAR that his command had decided to declassify a large amount of previously classified data a week before the report’s original release in January, and that his staff had uncovered an “accounting error” on Afghan military strength between April and October 2014. Although this information was sent to the Pentagon, it was not provided to SIGAR, despite numerous reviews, according to SIGAR. The new numbers show the Afghan Army declined by 15,636 personnel, or 8.5 percent from February to November 2014, its lowest assigned force since August 2011. It also notes attrition continues to be a “major challenge” for the Afghans. US officials have not provided consistent documentation on the fluctuations in force levels, SIGAR charges. Sopko noted some figures remain classified; specifically Air Force equipment requirements, and the number of AAF trained pilots. Sopko has been critical of some AAF procurement efforts. Between Fiscal 2010 and 2014, the US provided more than $6.5 billion to support and develop the AAF, including over $3.2 billion for equipment and aircraft. (Read the full report; Caution, large-sized file.)