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​Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence July 20, 2017, at the Pentagon, following a meeting of the National Security Council. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.


Trump Visits Pentagon to Talk ISIS, Afghanistan

President Trump visited the Pentagon on Wednesday in the latest of a series of high-level discussions on the future of the war in Afghanistan and the continued fight against ISIS. Read the full report by Brian Everstine.


F-35 Program Office Planning Oxygen System Update Following Luke Issues

The F-35 Joint Program Office will update the jet’s onboard oxygen generation system to better flow air to pilots in the wake of physiological incidents in training at Luke AFB, Ariz. The OBOGS firmware update will include an algorithm change linked to oxygen concentration, Joint Program Office spokeswoman Brandi Schiff said in email. Honeywell will design the update, and find a way to retrofit all F-35s with the changes. Cost estimates are not yet developed. The current schedule is about 24 months, but the program office is pushing to accelerate that timeline, the report states. Luke in June temporarily grounded its F-35s after five pilots reported hypoxia-like incidents during flight. The Luke F-35s returned to limited flight, while other bases were not affected. The initiative was first reported by Defense News. —Brian Everstine

White House Nominates Top Pentagon Personnel Officials

The White House on Wednesday nominated two top civilians to oversee Defense Department readiness and personnel issues. President Trump nominated Robert Wilkie to be the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Anthony Kurta to be the principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Wilkie, who currently serves as the senior adviser to Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), also served in the presidential transition office. He previously served as the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs under President George W. Bush, and was the vice president for strategic initiatives for CH2M HILL. Kurta previously fulfilled the duties of undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy. Also Wednesday, Trump nominated Mark Esper to be the Secretary of the Army. Esper previously was the vice president of government relations at Raytheon. —Brian Everstine

Rogers Rallies the Troops on Space Corps

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) organized a briefing on the Space Corps proposal for the House Armed Services Committee one day after HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) hosted a similar briefing for the intelligence community. The purpose of the meeting was “to follow-up on sessions we’ve been holding all year at the subcommittee level, ” Rogers said in a press release. Wednesday’s HASC briefing was devoted to outlining both increased threats in space and problems with “the current organization of space within DOD and its space capability acquisition system,” Rogers said. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) had opposed the Space Corps plan because he said its impact had not been adequately studied and debated. Rogers’s briefing seemed to be aimed at addressing those concerns, but afterwards he said, “The time for study is over.”  He said multiple reports had already concluded that, “We must fix these problems. We believe the Space Corps is that fix. The status quo and further delay are indefensible.” The full House approved its version of the NDAA, including a provision to create a separate Space Corps within the Air Force, on July 14. The Senate version of the bill, which has yet to be considered by the full Senate, contains no such provision. For the Space Corps to become law, it would need to be added either by amendment during Senate debate or during the process of reconciliation with the House bill. —Wilson Brissett


Senators Want Syria Study Group

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) criticized the Trump administration for not producing “a serious, long-term strategy” in Syria and renewed her call for the formation of a bipartisan Syria Study Group in a ​letter co-written with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Thursday. Shaheen and Sasse, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, ask SASC chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to insert a provision creating the study group into the Senate version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if the administration fails to clarify a strategy before the NDAA comes to the Senate floor for debate. The senators write that the conflict in Syria is marked by “an increasingly complex battlefield environment,” and they note that recently, “US forces have come into direct, lethal contact with Russia-backed Syrian regime troops.” The war in Syria also serves as “a continuing call to arms for terrorist groups and criminals around the world,” they write. Shaheen and Sasse hope the study group will allow Congress to clarify its policy, “ensuring that any escalation of US involvement in Syria is not undertaken for tactical gains alone but is part of a strategy to achieve critical US objectives.”—Wilson Brissett


Top Democrats Question Nuclear Modernization Plan

House and Senate Democrats this week expressed concern about the Trump administration’s ongoing Nuclear Posture Review and raised questions about the Pentagon’s plans for modernization of the entire nuclear triad. Speaking at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, highlighted the enormous cost of full nuclear modernization and questioned whether ICBMs were necessary for national security. Read the full report by Wilson Brissett.

DARPA Faces Down Burgeoning Gene Editing Universe

DARPA has committed $65 million over the next four years to allow seven teams to research ways to mitigate the inherent risks of gene editing as it spread around the globe and potentially lands in the hands of enemies—or irresponsible actors. The Safe Genes program, as it is called, has a specific national security tie in that gene editing can be used to protect troops against diseases, mitigate the threat of offensive or even irresponsible use of biological warfare, and develop enhanced capabilities like synthetic and novel materials. Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

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RADAR SWEEP


—The Senate Appropriations Committee released budget guidance to its 12 subcommittees on Thursday, setting appropriations at Fiscal 2017 levels in the absence of a budget resolution that would allow lawmakers to exceed the spending caps of the 2011 Budget Control Act. The Defense Appropriations subcommittee received $513 billion for base budget and $82 billion for overseas contingency operations. The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a policy bill that includes $632 billion in base spending and $60 billion in OCO: Senate Appropriations Committee memo.

—The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of USAF Gen. Paul Selva to a second term as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The nomination now moves to the full Senate for a vote: SASC press release.

—F-15C Eagles from Kadena AB, Japan, and F-16s from Misawa Air Base conducted bilateral training with Japan Air Self Defense Force F-2s: PACAF release.

—USAF F-35As and Marine Corps F-35B strike fighters flew together during Red Flag 17-3, marking the first time the two variants participated in the exercise together: DOD release.

—Airman Cameron Ashley Owens, who is assigned to the 31st Operations Support Squadron at Aviano AB, Italy, has been formally charged with attempted murder and faces court-martial for allegedly breaking into the dormitory of a fellow airmen in April and repeatedly stabbing her. Owens also was charged with attempted unlawful entry, aggravated assault, and burglary: Stars and Stripes.