Austin Senate Confirmation Hearing

Congress Approves Waiver for Austin to Become SECDEF

Congress on Jan. 21 approved a waiver clearing the way for Lloyd Austin to be the next Defense Secretary, with a confirmation vote expected as early as the morning of Jan. 22. Austin, who retired from the Army in 2016 as the four-star commander of U.S. Central Command, needed Congressional approval for a waiver to the law requiring former uniformed military members to wait seven years before leading the Pentagon. The Senate approved the waiver by a vote of 69-27, immediately after the House approved it by a vote of 326-78, with 28 members not voting. The approval is the second time in four years that Congress waived the requirement. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis received a waiver in 2017, becoming former President Donald J. Trump's first Defense Secretary.
Women hair

USAF to Let Women Wear Longer Ponytails, Braids in Uniform

Female Airmen and Guardians will soon be able to let their hair down—at least a little. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. recently approved a recommendation by the Air Force uniform board to allow women to wear their hair in one or two braids, or a single ponytail, about as long as their shoulder blades, according to a Jan. 21 release. The new grooming standards will go into effect in February.
E-11A at Kandahar Airfield

Engine Failure, Aircrew Mistakes Caused Fatal E-11A Crash in Afghanistan

E-11A aircrew shut down the wrong engine during an in-flight emergency and were unable to restart the aircraft’s powerplants, causing the Jan. 27, 2020, crash that killed both pilots in Afghanistan, an Air Force investigation found. The crash killed Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss and Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, both assigned to the 430th Expeditionary Combat Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, a modified Bombardier Global Express business jet, serves as a “wi-fi in the sky,” connecting troops using multiple communications platforms. “This tragic accident and the loss of these two Airmen will not be forgotten,” said Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mark D. Kelly in a release.
Connecticut Guard in Washington D.C.

Thousands of Guardsmen Remain in Capital Region After Inauguration

The National Guard Bureau is working with states to drawdown “close to 15,000” of the nearly 26,000 troops still in the nation's capital following President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Of that total, about 10,600 were still on duty as of the evening of Jan. 21, NGB wrote in a release. The bureau said it expects to finish mapping out and executing the force withdrawal within 5-10 days, but some 7,000 Guard members will remain in D.C. “through the end of the month” to provide backup to agencies that have asked for “continuity of operations, additional support, and recuperation time for their forces to regroup.”
U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation Class of 2020

More USAFA Cadets Headed for Space Force in 2021

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado plans to send more students to the Space Force in 2021 than it did in the first cohort last year, the school’s superintendent said Jan. 21. About 115 USAFA cadets will head to the Space Force upon graduation in May, up from 86 last spring, according to Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark. The class of 2020 graduated the first group of USSF-bound second lieutenants after the new service was created in December 2019.
Veteran and new tankers

Boeing Receives $2.1 Billion for the Next KC-46 Production Lot

The Air Force on Jan. 20 awarded Boeing a $2.1 billion contract for the seventh KC-46 production lot, covering 15 aircraft. The award means there are now 94 KC-46s on contract, and the Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft. It comes just eight days after Boeing received $1.7 billion for production lot six. “Our KC-46 fleet is growing, and we’re ready to extend the reach of next-generation air refueling to more of our Airmen,” said Col. Jason Lindsey, U.S. Air Force KC-46 System program manager, in a Boeing release.
Stefanie Tompkins

DARPA Changing Directors Again in Third Recent Shuffle

The Biden administration is reportedly tapping Stefanie Tompkins to run the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, spurring the third leadership change at the secretive Pentagon organization since January 2020. Defense One first reported Tompkins’s “pre-decisional” appointment to the post on Jan. 19. The White House did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Former director Victoria Coleman's last day at the agency was Jan. 20, after four months on the job.
A-10 Desert Storm

30 Years After Desert Storm: Jan. 22

In commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, Air Force Magazine is posting daily recollections from the six-week war, which expelled Iraq from occupied Kuwait.

Virtual Events: AFSOC’s Slife on Mitchell Institute’s ‘Aerospace Nation’

On Feb. 16, the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will host Lt. Gen. James C. Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, on the next installment of its virtual “Aerospace Nation” series. The event discussion will cover AFSOC's priorities for the year, the development of emerging technologies for special operations, and the implementation of AFSOC's Strategic Guidance. The think tank will post event video on its website and YouTube page after the live event.

Radar Sweep

Snapshot: DOD and COVID-19

Air Force Magazine

Here's a look at how the Defense Department is being impacted by and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden Administration to Seek Five-Year Extension on Key Nuclear Arms Treaty in First Foray with Russia

The Washington Post

President Biden is seeking a five-year extension with Russia on the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals just days before it expires, said two senior U.S. officials. At the same time, his administration is preparing to impose new costs on Russia pending a newly requested intelligence assessment of its recent activities. The officials said Biden is ruling out a “reset” in bilateral relations with Moscow as many new U.S. presidents have done since the end of the Cold War.

WeaponONE Demonstrates Digital Twin Technologies That Deliver Software-Defined Weapon Capabilities to the Battlefield

USAF release

The Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate recently hosted a demonstration of the Team Eglin Weapons Digital Enterprise WeaponONE (W1) program at the Virtual Warfare Munitions Simulator, which highlighted the significant progress made in the past year as well as the value of digital engineering to warfighters. The demo was based on a model of the 24-hour Air Tasking Order (ATO) cycle of a collaborative swarming weapons system prototype called “Gray Wolf,” and showed how data is collected from weapons in-flight, combined with data from the battlefield environment, and sent back through the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) to digital twins.

SPONSORED—VIDEO: 4 Principles of Agile JADC2 Development

Air Force Magazine

Innovation has always been a hallmark of the U.S. Air Force. But with the accelerating pace of technology development, the service needs a new approach to modern design to make the latest technologies profoundly more accessible.

Air Force Rolls out Coaching Culture Facilitator Course Pilot for Mid-level Leaders

USAF release

GS-11 supervisors with 10 years time-in-service along with O-3s and E-7s with two years time-in-grade, can now apply for the online Air Force Coaching Culture Facilitator Course Pilot scheduled to begin in April 2021.Coaching is a voluntary process facilitating growth and development for both individuals and groups. Through structured dialogue, coaches provide members with new perspectives to help them achieve greater clarity and inspire them to achieve their personal and professional potential.

New Career Field Lets Officers Focus on Overseas Jobs

Air Force Times

The Air Force has created a new career field specifically for foreign area officers, who often work in embassies overseas and as attaches to foster cooperation with other nations’ militaries. Col. Lawrence Pravecek, the chief of the Air Force’s international airmen division, said in a Jan. 12 interview that the new 16F Air Force specialty code will help foreign area officers concentrate on those jobs, advance in their careers, and show the service’s commitment to international cooperation.

How the Air Force is Making Marine Recon Better

Marine Corps Times

Recon Marines are working with Air Force pararescue jumpers, known as PJs, along with combat controllers. “We noticed between force recon and the special tactics squadron that we have a lot of mirror capabilities and we do a lot of the same type of training,” Maj. Joshua Chambers, the 3rd Recon operations officer, told Marine Corps Times. “We wanted to kind of share with each other had to offer as far as, procedures, tactics and how can we make each other stronger,” he added.