Mattis to Lawmakers: Remove Budget Cuts, Say no to Space Corps

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pressing Congress further on removing budget caps and calling for another round of base closures, using an annual letter reviewing the pending defense authorization bill to urge lawmakers to make a series of changes. In Wednesday’s letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees, Mattis wrote that the cuts under the Budget Control Act are his “primary concern” and need to be removed. “Current caps continue to unnecessarily defer critical maintenance, limit aviation ability, delay modernization, and strain our men and women in uniform,” Mattis wrote in the letter. Mattis also told the lawmakers he opposes the push to create a “Space Corps,” writing that he is opposed to 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.” Congress should consider another round of base closures at a time of tight budgets, because closure of excess infrastructure could save about $2 billion or more annually, he wrote. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act is currently under negotiation between the House and Senate. —Brian Everstine

US Lacks Coordinated Response Capability for Cyber Attacks

The federal government has made important strides toward improving cyber defenses, US government officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, but the federal government remains unprepared for a significant cyber attack on the nation. A key problem is the lack of coordination at the national level. The Senators on the committee criticized the White House for refusing to allow Rob Joyce, who serves as cyber coordinator for the National Security Council, to testify. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

US Preparing Cyber Defense for Upcoming Elections

US government officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that they are preparing measures to protect upcoming US elections from cyber attack. They said the task is daunting, however, because elections are organized on a state and local level and because the federal government does not have a central organization to coordinate a national response to cyber attacks. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

RPA Training Squadron Receives More Simulators in Push To Train More Pilots

The Air Force’s undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft training squadron recently received its 16th and final new flight simulator, part of the service’s push to ramp up training of new RPA pilots and sensor operators. The 558th Flying Training Squadron at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, took the new simulator as part of its growth, from a detachment to a full squadron, to face the need for RPA operators. “There aren’t many growth industries in the Air Force these days but remotely piloted aircraft certainly is one,” Lt. Col. Jason Thompson, 558th FTS commander, said in a release. The Air Force in 2015 developed a “get well” plan for its remotely piloted aircraft community, which included tasking Air Education Training Command to double the amount of RPA pilots it trains. In 2017, about 600 pilot and sensor operator students accumulated 16,248 hours on simulators, up from 330 students and 6,805 hours in 2015, the release states. This year, the squadron is on pace to train 338 pilots, up from 277 in 2016.

Alabama Guard F-16s Deploy for ISIS Fight

F-16s and airmen from the Alabama Air National Guard deployed Wednesday to join the fight against ISIS. Several hundred airmen from the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field ANGB, Ala., deployed as part of a package for Operation Inherent Resolve, the first major deployment for the 100th Fighter Squadron since it went to Afghanistan in 2014, according to a release. The deployment comes as US and coalition aircraft are setting new records in the fight against ISIS. In August, the coalition dropped 5,075 bombs as part of Operation Inherent Resolve—the highest total since the campaign began in 2014. As of the end of September, the coalition had dropped 36,351 bombs—almost 6,000 more than the total for all of 2016, according to Air Forces Central Command. —Brian Everstine

Aviano Air Control Squadron Deploys to Middle East, Africa

About 140 airmen from the 606th Air Control Squadron at Aviano AB, Italy, deployed recently to locations across the Middle East and Africa in support of both the air war against ISIS and operations in Afghanistan. The squadron, a unit that forward deploys tactical command and control to identify both friendly and hostile targets, will be tasked with covering areas of operation in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and across the Persian Gulf, according to an Aviano release. The 606th is the only ACS in US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. It is comprised of 300 airmen from 25 different Air Force specialty codes.

Contractor Aircraft Responded to Niger Ambush

A US-contracted aircraft flew in to retrieve the US Army soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago, as armed French fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft also responded but did not conduct airstrikes, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday. The deaths of four US Army Green Berets in the Oct. 4 ambush is under investigation at the Pentagon, and “we do not have all the accurate information yet,” Mattis said during a brief public appearance at the Pentagon alongside Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman. This investigation will focus on why the soldiers received intelligence reports that an attack was unlikely, among other questions. About 30 minutes after the attack, armed French Mirage fighters and Super Puma helicopters arrived on scene. The helicopters evacuated the wounded soldiers, and the contracted aircraft carried the bodies of the soldiers killed in the ambush, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a Thursday statement. That aircraft was operated by Berry Aviation, CNN reported. One soldier’s body was not recovered until days later, as local nationals discovered it and reached out to US forces, Mattis said. —Brian Everstine


—The Air Force needs “more resources and more acquisition flexibility” to meet the increasing demands for space-based capabilities. To accomplish that, USAF is trying to “normalize, integrate, and elevate space” and has proposed a 20 percent funding increase for space in its Fiscal 2018 budget request, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said on Oct. 18: USAF release.

—Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told airmen at Barksdale AFB, La., they are a “central part” of the “pressure campaign” against North Korea. “If I had one message for you today, it would be that you underwrite every military operation on the globe,” Goldfein said during an Oct. 17 all-call: USAF release.

—Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Jay Raymond said it would be “absolutely foolish” for the service not to begin using rockets that have flown before: Bloomberg.