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​​Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies before the House Armed Services Committee about the Air Force’s fiscal year 2019 budget March 20, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark.

Wilson Defends Air Force Move to Limit Press Access

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson Tuesday defended the service’s decision to limit dealings with the press during her testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. The Air Force earlier this month suspended most media embeds, base visits, and a large number of interviews while its public affairs officers undergo an operational security and “public engagement reset” that takes into account a return to the “great power competition.” During a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2019 administration budget request and acquisition reform, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) asked Wilson about a memo he paraphrased as “reportedly directing the Air Force to share less with the public.” Wilson said the memo “has to do with operational security.” She said the department has an obligation to be transparent, “but not with things that our adversaries could use against us.” Moreover, she said, it was time to “do a reset and a retraining of our commanders and public affairs officials, which we have done.” She added, “Interesting to me, the press did not know that we had done the reset until they found the memo, so it obviously didn't affect how we were engaging with the media.” —Steve Hirsch


Wilson Questioned on US Ability to Counter China’s Anti-Satellite Efforts

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday the US is “not catching up” in space. It is already the “best in the world at space” and “our adversaries know it.” However, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) pointed to “China's development of anti-satellite weapons and how they now claim to be able to take out the majority of our satellites within 28 hours, 48 hours rather at the beginning of a conflict.” He raised similar issues in a hearing last week. Wilson said the US is concerned about China’s jamming capabilities and direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons, and she noted that Beijing alos claims “certain co-orbital capabilities.” “Our job is to ensure that we deter any attack on our satellites. We are able to defend when someone attacks our satellites. And we are able to continue to operate in spite of any country's attempt to interfere with satellite communications,” she said. When Moulton asked Wilson whether she was “confident today that we have the resources to defend against such a Chinese attack,” Wilson said she wanted to “go into some detail with you in classified session on that.” —Steve Hirsch


US Official to Taliban: Now Would be a Good Time to Reach Out for Talks

There will never be a better time for the Taliban to start talking with the Afghan government about peace, a senior US official said in Mazar e-Sharif Tuesday. Army Brig. Gen Michael R. Fenzel, the chief of plans for the Resolute Support mission there, noted “breathtaking” progress made by the Afghan government and President Ashraf Ghani. He said Ghani’s security roadmap is sound, and pointed to the role of President Trump’s August South Asia Strategy. “I won’t purport to speak for the Taliban, but I have to imagine that their big plans to march on Kabul as we left, and now they see us with no timeline, additional commitments, overwhelming commitment of enablers that comes with this shift of the main effort from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, and they are seeing it on the ground. … It’s got to be demoralizing from the Taliban’s perspective,” Fenzel said. “I have to wonder,” he told reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “if they don’t say to themselves, ‘Perhaps now is as good as it is going to get for reconciliation,’” –Steve Hirsch

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Congress Still Working on Spending Bill

Members of Congress were working late Wednesday afternoon on a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September. Congress has been working this week to come up with a spending bill to prevent another government shutdown in the current budget saga—there have already been two in the first three months of the calendar year. The government is currently operating under the fiscal year’s fifth continuing resolution, which funds the government through Friday and was attached to a two-year budget agreement that included increases in defense spending. “We’re feeling very good about this,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, President Trump gave the spending bill his backing after talking with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). News reports quoted a White House statement as saying, “The President and the leaders discussed their support for the bill, which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall, and other key domestic priorities, like combating the opioid crisis and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.” Congress has until midnight Friday to pass spending legislation or the government will run out of money. —Steve Hirsch

Former EUCOM Boss Warns Russia’s Cyber Attacks “Coordinated Hybrid Warfare” on West

Russia’s cyber attacks on US elections as well as also others throughout the west are part of coordinated hybrid warfare aimed at “breaking up western unity,” the former head of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe warned lawmakers on Wednesday. Retired Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, said Russia sees a unified west “as an adversary” and because the country knows a conventional war would be “unfavorable,” it is using hybrid warfare including cyber attacks and economic measures to try to unsettle western alliances and sow disinformation. The US needs to see the election meddling “not in a vacuum in order to effectively combat … and understand the scope of hybrid warfare,” Breedlove said. Russia is also using the battlefield in Syria to warn western nations. For example, the 2015 launch of 26 long-range Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea targeting sites in Syria had little “tactical effect,” Breedlove said. Instead, it was done to show the west “look, we can range your capitals from the Western Caspian Sea. … Don’t mess with us.” —Brian Everstine


B-1B Successfully Tests Anti-Ship Missile for the Sixth Time

A B-1B from the 337th Test Squadron at Dyess AFB, Texas, successfully launched a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile at a maritime target in the Pacific Ocean, marking the sixth successful test of the missile. The missile was launched over the Sea Range at Point Mugu, Calif., on an undisclosed date and hit a ship with a stack of shipping containers, according to a March 19 Lockheed release. The missile, based on Lockheed’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, is intended to be used in contested environments, and is designed to be deployed on the B-1 and the Navy’s F/A-18. Lockheed has said it expects to finish B-1 integration this year. —Brian Everstine


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RADAR SWEEP


—Air Education and Training Command is redesigning the syllabus for its undergraduate pilot training program in an effort to “produce more” and “higher quality pilots with agility and speed.” The changes look to “eliminate redundancies” and bring “specific training” to pilots sooner: AETC release.

—The Air Force has awarded GSD&M a roughly $741 million contract to aid in recruitment efforts through advertising and special events. The contract expires on Sept. 30, 2027: Ad Week.

—United Airlines on Tuesday temporarily suspended its cargo pet transportation program, which could force some military families stationed on Guam to leave their pets behind: Military.com.