The U.S. aerospace industry got an early Christmas present this week, when House and Senate conferees approved defense authorization legislation that gives the President discretion to determine export jurisdiction for satellites. The legislation next will be voted on by the full Congress, and signed by the President. That process will conclude a necessary-but-not-sufficient, long-awaited first step in reviving the health and competitiveness of an industry critical to U.S. national security, but long crippled by political shenanigans that make it difficult to believe there won’t be attempts to derail this move toward rationality.
It is sadly evocative that titles of articles on government acquisition and satellite export control reform — two different but related areas similarly bogged down in efforts that have heretofore gone nowhere — sometimes descriptively include terms from fantasy or horror movies. For example, my own 2000 article on satellite export control, “Alice in Licenseland,” referenced a satellite export licensing variation of an impossible and often-scary imaginary journey. Louis V. Victorino’s 2011 article on data rights in the acquisition process was titled “Frankenstein’s Monster.” Keep reading →
[Updated Friday 12/21] CAPITOL HILL: It looks like the country’s getting a defense bill for Christmas, with provisions on everything from boosting cybersecurity to sanctioning Iran to loosening export controls on satellites.
In what passes for high efficiency in Congress these days, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees completed their conference on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 only two and a half months after the start of fiscal ’13 and just two weeks before sequestration may make many of their carefully wrought compromises moot. Keep reading →
[Updated and corrected 11:45 pm] WASHINGTON: The powerful National Guard Association of the US today denounced an unnamed “handful of House Armed Services Committee members” who, it says, are trying to use the ongoing House-Senate conference on the National Defense Authorization Act to reinstate cuts to the Air National Guard. The Air Force proposed reducing Guard personnel and planes in its 2013 budget, but both chambers roundly rejected the cuts in their versions of the NDAA passed earlier this year and forbade the Air Force from retiring almost any aircraft.
[Updated: It's notoriously hard to learn exactly what's happening in conference, but one House staffer told Breaking Defense that "the Guard Association's release is based, at best, on rumor and incomplete information."] Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, nearing the end of his 40-year career, hit back aggressively today at a series of congressional moves to obstruct the promotion of top Air Force leaders, including Schwartz’s successor as Chief of Staff, and to undo what the service believes are essential force structure changes.
Schwartz was dismissive of moves by Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to block the nomination of all senior Air Force officers to prevent the shift of an F-16 fighter squadron from one Alaska base to another. An earlier report on the costs of the move did not satisfy the senator. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Both chambers of Congress have resoundingly rejected the administration’s proposed cuts to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve – but the language that the House passed is so sweeping that it may inadvertently block the modernization of the very Guard and Reserve forces it was written to protect, according to Hill sources and the powerful National Guard Association of the US. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: On the margins of the $550-plus billion defense budget, the Army and the defense industry are quietly working on a program that could potentially replace 3,000 geriatric armored vehicles. So far, in this year’s budget, Congress is going along, but the real money — and the real battle — loom in the years to come.
The $1.7 billion Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program is the Army’s blandly named initiative to replace the M113, an all-too-lightly armored transport — sometimes called a “battle taxi” — that first entered service in 1961. Over 3,000 M113 variants serve in a host of unglamorous but essential roles from troop carriers to armored ambulances to mobile command posts. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: It’s spring, and 70-ton Marine Corps M1 tanks rumble through the flowers in southern Afghanistan (pictured above), while at home, both chambers of Congress are adding funds for armored vehicles to the Pentagon spending bill.
It may seem counter-intuitive that a nation shifting from hearts-and-minds counterinsurgency to “AirSea Battle” in the Pacific would need intimidating land juggernauts for either style of operations. It doesn’t hurt that armored vehicle construction is one of the last vestiges of highly skilled, highly paid blue-collar jobs in the US economy. But there are solid strategic arguments for armor as well as political ones. Keep reading →
THE CAPITOL [updated 9:40 pm with details from Senate press release]: The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously passed its mark-up of the annual defense spending bill, rejecting all proposed cuts to the Air National Guard, cutting the Defense Department’s civilian and contractor workforce by 5 percent over five years, and restricting aid to Pakistan.
The bill is silent on detention of terrorist suspects. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The House passed the annual defense spending bill this afternoon, 299 votes to 120, after two days of amendments and debate that hit election-year hot buttons hard but largely ignored substantive military issues or the looming threat of sequestration.
“If January comes and the Budget Control Act remains in effect as currently written, everything they’re doing now will be overridden by a preexisting law,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a member of Breaking Defense’s Board of Contributors. “Yet there’s almost nothing about the mark-ups that woud lead you to think that Congress is focusing on that issue. [And] unlike some of the military programs, the sequestration issue is very much a partisan divide: Anything that will work in the House will not work in the Senate, as of right now, so we are hurtling towards a meltdown.” Keep reading →
WASHINGTON — The House passed a defense budget Friday that exceeds the deal cut by Congress and President Barack Obama last summer, and that would have to be paid for with cash taken from poverty programs, health care and the federal workforce. Keep reading →