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​An F-16 Fighting Falcon receives fuel from a 28th Expeditionary Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq, Nov. 8, 2018. Air Force photo by SSgt. Jordan Castelan.

​Strikes Increased in Syria After Administration Claimed Victory Over ISIS

The pace of US strikes inside Syria increased in the final two weeks of 2018, as the White House announced its intent to withdraw US forces from the country and administration officials claimed victory over ISIS. Between Dec. 16 and Dec. 29, the US-led coalition conducted 469 strikes consisting of 1,001 engagements in Syria, according to a Friday coalition news release. This total was about double the pace of the previous weeks. The Syria strikes engaged 666 ISIS tactical units, destroyed 291 fighting positions, 153 staging areas, and dozens of other targets. In the same timeframe, the coalition conducted nine strikes in Iraq. The coalition and partner forces are “exerting pressure on ISIS senior leaders and associates, as well as degrading, disrupting, and dismantling ISIS organizational structures throughout Iraq and Syria,” the coalition said. In a Dec. 19 video, President Trump announced the plan to withdraw forces and said “we have won against ISIS.” On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence repeated this view, saying on FOX News that, “We have defeated ISIS” and while the fight isn’t completely done, having US forces on the ground in Syria is not needed. —Brian Everstine

Airstrike Kills Operative Involved in Cole Bombing

An al Qaeda operative involved in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole was killed in a precision strike on Jan. 1 in Yemen, US Central Command said Sunday. US forces confirmed the death of Jamal al-Badawi “following a deliberate assessment process,” Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman, said in a written statement. The Cole was refueling in Yemen when it was attacked on Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 US sailors. President Trump on Twitter praised the “GREAT MILITARY” for delivering “justice for the heroes lost and wounded” in the bombing. “We have just killed the leader of that attack, Jamal al-Badawi. Our work against al Qaeda continues,” he tweeted. Al-Badawi was wanted for the Cole bombing, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003 and charged with 50 counts of terrorism offenses, and had been charged as a co-conspirator in an attempt to attack a US Navy vessel in January 2000, Urban said.  —Jennifer Hlad

DLA, TRANSCOM Picked for F-35 Parts Distribution and Warehousing

The Pentagon has decided the Defense Logistics Agency and US Transportation Command will perform Global Transportation and Distribution and Warehousing, respectively, of F-35 parts for the global F-35 enterprise, the JPO announced Friday. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

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F-35 Maintainers Found Creative Fix for Grounded Aircraft During Hurricane Evacuation

F-35s from Eglin AFB, Fla., were grounded for a fleet-wide inspection while evacuated from their home base during Hurricane Michael. To limit the long-term impact to F-35 pilot training, maintainers found a different way to inspect and fix their fleet at their temporary base. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Report Provides More Information into Laughlin Firings

Three commanders at Laughlin AFB, Texas, were removed from their positions because of unsafe leadership, poor oversight of alcohol consumption at official events, and missed “opportunities to establish a culture of dignity and respect,” according to an Air Education and Training Command report. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

USAA May Owe You $181

USAA must repay 66,420 military, retired, and veteran members under a new settlement with the CFPB after an investigation found the bank failed to resolve errors, including not stopping preauthorized payments and reopening accounts without authorization. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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RADAR SWEEP


Relationship With Subordinate, Adultery Led to Firing of Air Force Global Strike Command’s Top NCO
The top noncommissioned officer of the Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Forces Strategic-Air has been removed for adultery and a sexual relationship with a subordinate at his previous post, the command said Friday. An investigation confirmed these findings and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Mazzone has been reassigned pending retirement. Stars and Stripes

Taiwan is Reverse-Engineering Fighter Jet Engines To Power a Cruise Missile
Taiwan thinks it needs new long-range weapons to keep China at bay, and now it has an innovative (if weird) solution. The nation is reportedly pulling engines out of old fighter jets to figure out how to make one for a cruise missile. Popular Mechanics

Shanahan Keeps Tight Grip on Space Force Planning
Even with a packed agenda as acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan plans to remain hands-on in formulating a proposal to establish a new military branch for space. Space News

DHS to Ask Pentagon For More Troops on the Border
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing to ask the Pentagon to extend the deployment of thousands of troops near the southwestern border and to send additional troops to erect barbed wire and barriers, CBS News has learned. CBS News

‘Blended’ Military Retirement Plan Not as Popular as Projected
With passage of the new Blended Retirement System (BRS) in 2016, the Defense Department’s Office of Actuary, assisted by computer modeling from the think tank RAND Corp., made some assumptions critical to planning future military retirement cost obligations. Stars and Stripes

Air Force Approves HIV Prevention Drug; Waiver Still Needed
The U.S. Air Force has approved the use of a medication designed to prevent HIV infection for pilots and aircrew, overriding an older policy that prohibited its use. Military.com

One More Thing:

We Asked For Your Defense Band Names. You Delivered.
As with so many things in Washington these days, it started with a tweet. Defense News