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The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee released his markup of the Fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill, which includes an additional 10 F-35A strike fighters for the Air Force. Here, four F-35As assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range on March 30, 2017. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw.

​Thornberry’s NDAA Mark Bolsters Defense Spending

The House is set to propose $621 billion in Fiscal 2018 base budget defense spending—more than the $574 billion requested by President Donald Trump, but short of the $640 billion baseline championed by congressional leaders, including Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The legislation would provide money for a number of the individual services’ unfunded priorities, including a total of 87 F-35s (of which 10 will be USAF F-35As) instead of the 70 included in the President's Budget request. The mark also includes an additional three KC-46s and 12 MC-130Js for the Air Force. Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

ACC Convenes Investigation Board to Look at Lead Up to Offutt Storm

Air Combat Command has convened a safety investigation board to assess the steps taken by Offutt AFB, Neb., in advance of a tornado earlier this month. On June 16, a tornado hit the base and damaged 10 aircraft, including two E-4B National Emergency Airborne Command Post aircraft—half of the four-aircraft fleet—and eight RC-135 Rivet Joints, as well as some base facilities. One E-4B was on alert at the time of the storm, and the fleet “remains capable of conducting its primary mission as the National Airborne Operations Center,” Air Force Global Strike Command said in a statement. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who regularly travels on the E-4B and other VIP aircraft, took a C-32 on a trip to Europe that began Monday. — Brian Everstine


DOD Needs Executive Agent Coordinating RPAs

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in advance of the official rollout of his newest publication, "Consolidating the Revolution: Optimizing the Potential of Remotely Piloted Aircraft," retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA's Mitchell Institute, emphasized a heavy future reliance on RPAs. But even though use of the platform has increased significantly—rising from five sortie sets across the spectrum in 2004 to a planned 90 in 2017—the revolution of the RPA has been “disorganized” in the wake of 9/11, reads Deptula's report, which will officially be rel​ased Wednesday on Capitol Hill. In it, he proposes a focus on institutional changes and technological initiatives, arguing institutional changes will be “the most difficult to implement.” Read the full story from Gideon Grudo.

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Pence Says Trump is Ready to Relaunch Space Council

President Donald Trump intends to relaunch the National Space Council within the coming weeks, Vice President Mike Pence said in remarks delivered at Schriever AFB, Colo., last week. Pence said he is ready to “serve as [the] chairman” of the Council, a position traditionally held by the sitting vice president. Bill Clinton was the last President to convene a Space Council, though he disbanded his in 1993. The purpose of the council is to “advise the President on both civilian and military national policy and strategy for space,” Pence said, noting he expects its reconstitution to “encourage more investment at the national level.” Some in Congress disagree. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who chairs the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, has opposed the move as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that would complicate program decisions. But Pence clearly sees the upside. “America needs a coherent and cohesive approach to the last, greatest frontier in history,” he said, and a Space Council can help provide it. Pence and his wife visited Schriever and the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station alongside USAF Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Space Command boss Gen. Jay Raymond “for a space orientation” in advance of the relaunch, according to a USAF release. —Wilson Brissett

Squadron Revitalization Visits Air Mobility Command

The Air Force’s squadron revitalization team recently completed visits to Scott AFB, Ill., and the Air Mobility Command headquarters. The initiative is one of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s three major emphases for his tenure and is being led by Brig. Gen. Stephen Davis, deputy chief of staff for manpower. In the current phase, the program is conducting 20 base visits to all the major command headquarters as well as an operational base connected to each MAJCOM. During the visits, team members conduct group discussion sessions and one-on-one interviews to gauge airmen’s experience on a number of quality of life and service issues. The revitalization effort has already led the service to add 1,600 squadron support staff positions across the Air Force over the next five years. In addition to the base visits, Davis has launched a website to gather feedback from airmen the team will not be able to visit. The initial forum on the website drew an average of 3,000 views per day. Data collected from the website and the base visits will help the team form long-term solutions to the problems uncovered along the way. “Squadron revitalization is not a destination, it's a journey,” said Davis. “It's about always striving for our squadrons to be the best that they can be and not losing sight that they are the core unit of the Air Force.”

Mattis: Precision Needed in Syria to Avoid Conflicts

The US-led coalition and allied forces must use “more precision” in their fight against ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley to avoid incidents between the different forces in the region, especially after a series of in-air incidents between the US and Syrian regime and its allied forces, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said. “You have to play this thing very carefully,” Mattis told reporters late Monday en route to Germany, according to The Washington Post. The US has provided support, including lethal weapons, to Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish forces in the north of the country, which has angered Turkey. In response, Mattis said the US will simply replace the weapons “with what they do need” after the fighting is over in Syria. To avoid more incidents between US-backed fighters and the other groups, Mattis said the region needs to be cut into “deconfliction areas” that can be identified by map so possible tensions can be avoided. “As long as it’s worked out by the commanders and enough people know about it in sufficient time, there are ways that have proven that we can do this,” Mattis said, according to the Post. The US has set up a deconfliction zone near its training base at At Tanf, prompting the shootdown of a Syrian Air Force jet and two Iranian-made drones as they flew in the area and reportedly threatened US-backed fighters. — Brian Everstine

US Warns Syria Against Launching Chemical Attack

The White House is warning Syria not to launch a chemical attack, saying the regime would “pay a heavy price” if its warning is ignored. Read the full story by Brian Everstine


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RADAR SWEEP


—The Marine Corps has resumed F-35B flight operations at MCAS Yuma, Ariz. The Arizona-based fleet was grounded for one day due to problems with the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System. A Marine Corps spokesman told IHS Jane’s “the ALIS anomalies were related to maintenance codes not being properly reflected within ALIS.”

—The State Department has approved a possible $366.2 million Foreign Military Sale to India for one C-17 transport aircraft. The potential sale also includes four F-117-PW-100 engines and various other parts, systems, and support: DSCA release

—Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced plans to build the BE-4 rocket engine in Huntsville, Ala., if it is awarded a contract by United Launch Alliance. The BE-4 could be an alternative to the Russian-made RD-180, which currently powers ULA's National Security Space launches: Associated Press

—South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House June 29-30. The visit comes as tensions escalate on the Peninsula. The US and South Korea also disagree about the best way to handle North Korea and the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System to the country: Washington Post