Defense Policy Bill Becomes Law

President Obama signed H.R. 4310, the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill, into law, announced the White House on Thursday. The legislation, on which lawmakers concluded work in December, provides $633.3 billion for national defense programs in this fiscal year. President Obama signed the bill on Wednesday, Hawaii time; he is currently vacationing there. Obama said in a statement he decided to approve the legislation, despite his reservations over certain provisions, because "it authorizes essential support for service members and their families, renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world." Among his concerns, restrictions in the act on the Defense Department's "ability to retire unneeded ships and aircraft will divert scarce resources needed for readiness and result in future unfunded liabilities," he said. Also, by failing to agree to "prudent cost-sharing reforms" in Pentagon health care programs, "Congress may force reductions in the overall size of our military forces," he stated. In a related matter, Obama also enacted H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, on Jan. 2. Among its provisions, the act delays budget sequestration by several months. (H.R. 4310 conference report; caution, extremely large-sized file.) (See also AFPS report by Jim Garamone.)

F-16 Crash under Investigation

Officials are investigating the cause of last week’s crash of an F-16C from the California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno. The F-16 went down in the California desert on Dec. 27 during a routine mission. The pilot...

Thinking Globally

The Air Force awarded Boeing a $895 million contract for C-17 operational enhancements and development activities over the next 10 years. This “GLOBE contract,” as it is known, is an umbrella deal that includes “a variety of potential modernization projects,”...

Define Initial

In H.R. 4310, this fiscal year's newly enacted defense policy legislation, Congress directed the Air Force Secretary to establish the initial operational capability date for the service's F-35A strike fighter. Lawmakers want the date, along with a report on the details of the aircraft's features at IOC, "not later than June 1," according to Section 155 of the act, which covers this topic. They also want the Navy Secretary to define the same for the Marine Corps' F-35B variant and the sea service's F-35C model in that same timeframe. The anticipated IOC dates for the three F-35 configurations have slipped by several years over the past few years due to delays in completing the stealth fighter's development and testing. (H.R. 4310 conference report; caution, extremely large-sized file.) (For more background, read Slow Climb for the F-35 from Air Force Magazine's 2012 archive.)

Defense Act Targets Future Bomber’s Nuclear Gap

H.R. 4310, this year's defense policy act, mandates that the Air Force's future bomber must be capable of carrying nuclear weapons on the date that it commences initial operations. Further, the new bomber must be certified to use those weapons no later than two years after that date, according to the legislation. President Obama signed H.R. 4310 into law on Jan. 2. Section 211 of the act contains the language on the future bomber. Air Force officials have said the service wants to have the new bomber design available for operations starting in the mid 2020s to complement the B-2A and B-52H fleets, and eventually supplant those two platforms. Unlike bombers of the past, the Air Force is designing the new airplane first and foremost for conventional long-range-strike roles. At some later to-be-determined point, the platform would take on the additional role of nuclear deterrence, the officials have said. (H.R. 4310 conference report; caution, extremely large-sized file.)

Global Hawks for South Korea

The Pentagon notified Congress of the possible $1.2 billion foreign military sale of four RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft and associated equipment and logistical support to South Korea. The East Asian ally “needs this intelligence and surveillance...

Honoring Neil Armstrong

The House passed legislation that would rename NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California after Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) introduced the legislation, H.R. 6612, at the end of November. His congressional district includes the western Mojave Desert where Edwards Air Force Base, which hosts the center, is located. The House unanimously passed the bill on Dec. 31 by a vote of 404 to zero. The Senate received the legislation on the next day, but has yet to vote on it. Dryden is NASA's primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations and is considered critical in supporting the agency's space exploration mission. The bill would redesignate Dryden as the NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center in tribute to Armstrong, who died last August at age 82. Under another provision in the bill, NASA's Western Aeronautical Test Range at Edwards would become the NASA Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.