July 21, 2019

Congress Still Debating Veterans Benefit Cuts

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The latest omnibus spending bill reversed some planned cuts to veteran benefits but left most of the reductions in place making lawmakers an ongoing target for powerful veteran groups, reports the National Journal. The bill removed some reductions to medically retired veterans’ retirement benefits which represented only one-tenth of the $6 billion-plus cut included in the budget deal. Congress is now considering a number of avenues to further restore veteran benefits by making financial adjustments in other legislative areas including Obamacare, the U.S. Postal Service and foreign aid. The most proposed solution is to simply repeal the cuts and let associated costs add to the deficit.

A decision is looming on whether to spend an estimated $350 million to make the Lockheed Martin F-35 capable of carrying the B61 tactical nuclear weapon or invest those funds in the proposed “B-3” Long Range Stealth Bomber, according to Daily Finance. The F-35 is the eventual replacement for F-15E and F-16 fighters which are capable of carrying the nuclear device.

The Obama administration’s effort to shift armed UAS oversight to the Pentagon and away from the CIA has attracted Congressional restrictions, reports The New York Times. Although the federal budget language can make it difficult to transfer control of unmanned vehicles, nothing completely prevents shifting responsibility for shifting UAS responsibility to DoD. The specifics are unclear because the provision language is classified.

Retired Navy admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s former top military commander, warned that the continuing sectarian conflict in Syria and Iraq could spark a widespread war in the Middle East, reports Stars and Stripes. “It can and will create ungoverned zones of open conflict within easy range of NATO nations in Europe and friends in the region, from Saudi Arabia to the Gulf to Jordan and Israel,” Stavridis stated.

A new maritime security barrier has been developed to protect Navy warships in harbor against speeding attack boats, reports Naval Technology. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Halo Maritime Defense Systems jointly developed the new Halo Barrier system which could vastly improve current port protection methodologies. ONR deputy director of research Craig Hughes said, “This project represents a leap ahead in applied technology to create an advanced capability that addresses a critical fleet need to balance security and cost.” The new barrier system is scheduled for more tests in March-April and into procurement in fiscal year 2015.

Britain is close to placing its first major order for the F-35 stealth fighter jet with an award for approximately 14 of the Lockheed Martin warplanes possible in the next few weeks, reports the Telegraph. The aircraft is also important to UK manufacturers with more than 500 British companies working on the project, including BAE Systems.

The Navy remains committed to a goal established in 2009 to power aircraft and ships with biofuel blends by 2016, according to National Defense. However, cost remains an obstacle with the Navy ready to buy hundreds of millions of gallons of bio-fuel when it is price competitive with petroleum products. The energy industry seeks large cash inflows to scale up production and cut costs. The Navy has worked with biofuels for many years and has tested aircraft engines running on 50/50 blends.

The DoD inspector general recently released a report dunning Navy contracting employees who didn’t properly monitor ongoing contract work including a failure to create task order quality assurance plans and not documenting completed “deliverables”, reports the Federal Times. The Naval Supply Systems Command agreed to make improvements.

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