SASC OKs Space Force in 2020 Defense Policy Mark
The Senate Armed Services Committee endorses a Space Force in its version of the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill, becoming the first defense oversight panel to explicitly greenlight the proposal this year. Under the proposal, Air Force Space Command would transform into the Space Force, changing from a major command to the sixth armed service and bringing existing AFSPC staff along, a committee aide told Air Force Magazine. Committee members approved the $750 billion defense authorization legislation 25 to 2 in a closed markup May 22. If the Senate confirms Air Force Space Command chief Gen. Jay Raymond to lead the revived US Space Command—as they are likely to do—he would also serve as the first Space Force commander for a year if one is created. Raymond’s confirmation hearing is tentatively slated for June 5, a committee aide said. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
Senate Provides $1.67 Billion for Tyndall, Offutt Repairs
The Senate on May 23 approved a new supplemental aid bill, providing the Air Force with $1.67 billion to fund new construction and operations at Tyndall AFB, Fla., and Offutt AFB, Neb., following natural disasters that devastated the bases. The funding is part of a broad $19.1 billion disaster relief package that covers damage from Hurricanes Michael and Florence, as well as tornadoes, floods, and wildfires from 2018 and 2019. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
OSD Official: B-52 Replacement Needs to Penetrate
The Air Force needs to look to new ways of penetrating enemy airspace as its idea of what should replace the B-52H Stratofortress takes shape, Peter Fanta, deputy assistant defense secretary for nuclear matters, said this week. The B-52—a 1950s aircraft that is expected to fly for a century—hasn’t been able to penetrate enemy air defenses for the last 40 or 50 years, Fanta said at a May 23 AFA Mitchell Institute breakfast, so its replacement would need to regain that capability. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
USAF Meets “Century Challenge” Goal of Removing Time from Acquisition Schedules
The Air Force has met its goal of cutting 100 years of unnecessary schedule from weapons development programs, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on May 23, just days before she leaves her job leading the service. The Air Force actually removed 100.5 years of schedule by using new authorities to rapidly prototype and test weapons, including hypersonic weapons, F-22 and F-15E defensive systems, cyber networks, satellites, and intelligence technologies, according to an Air Force release. “We have to get critical technologies to the warfighter faster,” Wilson said in the release. “Cost and performance matter a lot. So does speed.” The Century Challenge began in May 2018 and is part of a broad push to revamp the service’s science and technology efforts. This also includes the recently announced science and technology strategy, which outlines changes such as new “vanguard” ideas the service will pursue and $2.8 billion in 2020 for “transformational” projects.
Two National Security Space Launch Rockets Moving Forward
United Launch Alliance this week announced its new Vulcan Centaur rocket passed its critical design review, a system-level vetting that marks the end of the design phase. Vulcan Centaur, which wraps aspects of ULA’s older rockets into a new design, will fly for the first time in 2021. The launch vehicle is expected to compete against offerings from Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, and Blue Origin in the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch program, which is buying an estimated 34 launches for a variety of government payloads between 2021 and 2024. Northrop is preparing to ground test the first stage of its OmegA rocket May 30, igniting and pressurizing OmegA’s most powerful motor. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.
Shanahan to Visit Pacific, Speak at Shangri-La Dialogue
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will make his first trip through the Pacific, including attending the Shangri-La Dialogue where the head of China’s military will also be speaking. Shanahan will leave May 28 on a trip to Hawaii, Jakarta, Singapore, and Tokyo, according to a Pentagon release. While in Singapore, Shanahan will attend the dialogue “where he will meet with key leaders from the region and announce the Department of Defense’s new strategy for the Indo-Asia Pacific.” During the same event, Gen. Wei Fenghe, China’s minister of national defense, will speak on China’s place in the region. This year’s event will include more than 50 countries. —Brian Everstine
More Troops, Defensive Capabilities Requested to be Sent to Middle East to Deter Iran
US Central Command is requesting additional defensive capabilities that could lead to as many as 5,000 to 10,000 additional troops being sent to the Middle East to deter Iran, a US official told ABC News.
Army, Air Force Want Merged ‘Scrolling’ Process to Help Transition Between Active, Reserve, and Guard
The Army, Air Force, and National Guard want Congress’ help to change the way officers are put into their ranks in order to speed up the movement between components and to ease the burden on troops. Federal News Network
The Runway is Ready, but Flights Still on Hold at New US Drone Site in Niger
The US military has finally completed runway work at a new air base in Agadez, Niger, but Air Force officials said May 22 it will still be several months before flight operations can begin at what is anticipated to be a major intelligence gathering hub in western Africa. Stars and Stripes
Shanahan’s Gag Rule Memo Nets Bipartisan Backlash
The bipartisan leaders of the House Armed Services Committee said May 22 they will act against Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan’s new restrictions on how the Pentagon tells Congress about international military operations. Defense News
Just Revealed SpaceX Lawsuit Alleges Air Force ‘Wrongly Awarded’ Billions to Rocket Competitors
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in a previously secret lawsuit revealed on May 22, challenged the Air Force awarding of $2.3 billion in rocket development contracts last year to competitors Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, and United Launch Alliance, which is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. CNBC
Suspicious Exam Results Spark Cheating Probe at Air Force Academy
Suspicious results on the final exams of some Air Force Academy underclassmen triggered a probe that kicked off May 22 to determine whether the cadets cheated. Colorado Springs Gazette
New Report Highlights More Mold and Maintenance Problems for MacDill Housing
In a new report from the Military Family Advisory Network, 105 families who spent time living in on-base housing at MacDill responded to a survey in which they spoke out about issues such a mold, maintenance, and other concerns. WFLA
Plans to Combat Veterans Suicide, Boost VA Benefits Move Ahead
In advance of Memorial Day, House lawmakers passed a series of nine veterans-themed bills, including several focused on suicide prevention. Military Times
One More Thing…
What if a Blood Test Could Reveal PTSD in a Patient—and the Best Treatment
Kate Chard and her team of researchers are looking for proteins and neurochemical reactions underlying PTSD to not only identify who has it, but how likely it is to manifest itself in different forms. WCPO Cincinnati