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​Scott Gilmore, an excavation operator, uses a utility excavator to level the altar at Chapel 2 at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Feb. 15, 2019, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Michael last year. The demolition marked the beginning of a long process to clear out damaged structures to make way for new construction. Air Force photo by SrA. Javier Alvarez.

Senators Float $1.1 Billion for Air Force in Disaster-Relief Bill

A group of senators tucked $1.1 billion for Air Force operations, maintenance, and construction into a broader disaster-relief funding bill introduced this week. Lawmakers would allow the service to stretch more than half those funds until the end of September 2023, but want an accounting of how the money would be used. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

High-Level Technology Initiatives Gaining Momentum Before Bringing in Services

Pentagon Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy indicated two of the Defense Department’s top-level cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence initiatives need to mature on their own before they try to work with the services. Though he indicated they are making progress in testimony before the House Armed Services intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities subcommittee, ranking member Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) voiced concern that efforts across the department are not moving forward in lockstep. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

DOD Calls on Pakistan, India to De-Escalate as Kashmir Crisis Worsens

The Pentagon on Wednesday called on India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions as a crisis between the two nuclear-armed countries deepens in the disputed region of Kashmir. Top US military, State Department, and White House officials have been consulting about the crisis, and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s “focus is on de-escalating tensions and urging both of the nations to avoid further military action,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The two militaries have been escalating and trading shots since a suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14. On Wednesday, the Pakistani military said it shot down two Indian fighter jets that conducted airstrikes, and posted a video of a captured Indian pilot. The Indian Foreign Ministry said in return the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani jet, a claim Pakistan denied, according to the BBC. Both India and Pakistan are close military allies to the US, and regularly train alongside the Air Force, such as December’s Cope India with the IAF and Pakistan’s involvement in exercises such as Red Flag in 2016 and Mobility Guardian in 2017. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford visited Pakistan in September to “reset” relations, and he spoke with his counterpart in Pakistan on Tuesday. —Brian Everstine

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COPE North Resumes After Storm

COPE North resumed this week after a brief hold for Typhoon Wutip, which leaders said actually provided a “perfect” training opportunity. The multilateral exercise began Feb. 18 in Guam, but was paused Feb. 22 to bed down or evacuate aircraft from the island in preparation for a Category 4 typhoon. Wutip “sideswiped” the island and later peaked at Category 5 strength, The Washington Post reported, which makes it the strongest February typhoon ever recorded. Col. Jason Cockrum, COPE North exercise director, said the storm “provided us an opportunity to go right from exercise planning into crisis response planning with the alliance,” adding that the airmen went from exercise planning to contingency response and back into exercise execution within a three-day period. Maj. Matthew Sabraw, lead planner for the exercise, said the storm was the “perfect opportunity to see how we work together multilaterally in a contingency, and we seized that opportunity.” Airmen from the Royal Australian Air Force, Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and USAF, as well as US marines, are participating in COPE North 19. —Jennifer Hlad

41 Retired Generals Sign Memo Defending Transgender Military Service

Forty-one retired senior military leaders—including four Air Force general officers—called for the Trump administration to call off its legal defense of the Defense Department's transgender military service ban in a Feb. 26 memo from the Palm Center research institute, whose work focuses on gender and sexuality issues within the US Armed Forces. In the memo, the former DOD leaders cautioned that continued legal defense of the ban “will undermine the integrity of United States military judgement,” adding the ban goes against senior military leaders’ judgement, medical findings, “and the experiences” of the US and foreign militaries. They expressed solidarity with the Joint Chiefs’ testimony about the success of trans-inclusive service and the risks that “discrimination and double standards” pose to combat effectiveness. They also countered the argument that transgender military service is financially forbidding, noting that, in fiscal 2017, DOD data showed that transition-related medical costs equated to “less than one-tenth of a percent of its annual health care budget for the Active Component.” —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

Spencer Reflects on His Final Air Warfare Symposium, Tenure as AFA’s President

Outgoing Air Force Association President retired Gen. Larry Spencer discussed the significance of his final Air Warfare Symposium, reflected on his time with and contributions to the organization, and shared his hopes for AFA’s future, in a Feb. 22 video interview with Air Force Magazine. “I know that [retired USAF Lt. Gen.] Orville Wright will take AFA to the next level,” he said of his successor, who will take the helm of the organization on March 1. Spencer is a former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Wright last commanded US Forces Japan and 5th Air Force. —Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory and Mike Tsukamoto

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RADAR SWEEP


Melting Missiles: Just One Problem With F-35s Stopping N Korea Rockets
Looking for a quick way to stop North Korean missiles immediately after lift-off, the Pentagon is studying as a near-term option whether a group of F-35 fighter jets hovering around North Korean airspace could pick off freshly-launched rockets. Reuters

Defense Industry Leaders Talk Need for AI, Virtual Reality, Unmanned Vehicles
Veterans, active duty service personnel and defense industry contractors gathered at the recently renovated Lexington Hotel Tuesday and Wednesday to find ways to meet the technological needs of the U.S. military. Jacksonville Business Journal

Air Force Academy May Get New Visitors Center if Land Is 'Blighted' Enough
The Colorado Springs City Council soon will be asked to declare 40 acres of untouched foothills on the Air Force Academy as an urban renewal area. Military.com

US Northern Command Leader Says No Military Threat on Southern Border
Under pointed questioning from senators, the top U.S. general for homeland defense said Tuesday that he sees no military threat coming from the southern border with Mexico, but his focus is on “very real” threats from China and Russia. Military Times

One More Thing …

Imagine If
USAF sponsored a series of TED Talks with the “big idea” of: Imagination is a superpower—it allows us to push beyond perceived limits, to think beyond the ordinary, and to discover a new world of possibilities. TED Salon