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​Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon, Jan. 28, 2019. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

​Shanahan Brushes Away Boeing Concerns, Says He Isn’t Limited in “Acting” Role

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, in his 29th day serving as the head of the Pentagon, called concerns about his past with Boeing “just noise,” since he has agreed to avoid decisions related to the company. At the same time, he said Lockheed Martin’s F-35, a massive procurement and development program across three military services, “unequivocally” has room for improved performance. The White House has yet to name a replacement for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who turned over the reigns to Shanahan on Jan. 1, but he said he isn’t limited by the “acting” nature of his job. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

Shanahan: Possible U.S. Space Command Leader Identified

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan told reporters Jan. 29 the department has found its preferred candidate to lead the future U.S. Space Command and is moving forward in the nomination process. He did not reveal the person’s name. The military’s 11th unified combatant command, which Air Force Magazine reported last week is expected to stand up as a fledgling organization in early 2019, will be led by a four-star flag officer who controls all military space operations, Vice President Mike Pence said in December. —Rachel S. Cohen

DOD Monitoring Venezuela, Not Ruling Out Deployments

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Tuesday did not rule out the possibility of deploying US forces to Central America as US pressure increases on Venezuela. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, he said the military is supporting the National Security Council. “We are monitoring the situation very carefully, and we are watching,” Shanahan told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon. “We are working very much in real time.” National Security Adviser John Bolton is leading US efforts to put pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The White House also has thrown its support behind Juan Guaido, the head of the national assembly. Bolton was photographed Monday at a White House briefing on Venezuela holding a notepad with a line about deploying 5,000 US forces to Colombia. Shanahan said twice Tuesday that he had not discussed the issue with Bolton and would not comment on specific deployments of US troops. “As the situation in Venezuela evolves, we’re there to give them advice, counsel, and support,” he said. —Brian Everstine

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US Still in “Early Stages” of Syrian Withdrawal

US forces are in the “early stages of a deliberate, coordinated, and disciplined withdrawal” from Syria, weeks after President Trump announced the pullout on Twitter,  Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Tuesday. ISIS is “weeks” away from fully being removed from the land it once held, though it is no longer able to govern or mass forces and the majority of its leadership and financial capabilities are diminished, Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday. “Ninety-nine-point-five percent of ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians,” Shanahan said. “Within a couple weeks, it will be 100 percent.” The risk of terrorism and mass migration has been “significantly mitigated, he said, adding that there is still “more work to do.” Shanahan said there is also ongoing military-to-military conversations and diplomacy going on with the goal of moving toward sustaining local security. “That’s where the support of the coalition [and] where partnerships are so critical,” he said. —Brian Everstine

Hurlburt Airman Found Dead Outside Hospital Identified

The Air Force has identified the airman found dead outside the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center near Hurlburt Field, Fla., as SrA. Luis Navajas. Navajas, 30, was assigned to the 505th Communications Squadron, which is a tenant unit at Hurlburt, according to a release. “There is no greater loss than that of a valued airman and teammate,” said Col. Sean Choquette, commander of the 505th Command and Control Wing. “The death of airman Navajas affected us all, and our team is now focused on taking care of his family and each other as we grieve.” His death remains under investigation.

US Border Deployments to Continue Through Fiscal 2019

Active Duty and National Guard troops will continue to deploy to the US-Mexico border through the end of fiscal 2019, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood testified at a Jan. 29 House Armed Services Committee hearing. Joint Staff Director of Operations Vice Adm. Michael Gilday—who also testified at the hearing—estimated it will cost $132 million just to keep Active Duty troops at the border through the end of the month. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

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Air Force Academy to Hire Enlisted Airmen for Accredited Faculty Positions

The Air Force Academy is hiring enlisted airmen with advanced degrees as accredited faculty instructors for the first time, according to a Jan. 28 release. The teaching jobs are intended for senior non-commissioned officers with advanced degrees. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.
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RADAR SWEEP


White House: Space Force Under The Air Force Only a ‘First Step,’ a Separate Department Not Off the Table
White House draft policy memo: After the Space Force is established, the secretary of defense has to conduct a “periodic review” and recommend a timeline for spinning off the Space Force into its own military department. Space News

Air Force Chief Backs New Boeing Fighter Jet — With This Condition
After months of emphasizing the importance of stealth jets, the Air Force now reportedly supports the purchase of new Boeing F-15X fighters, but not at the expense of the newer Lockheed Martin F-35s. Investor's Business Daily

732nd OSS Activates, Sets RPA Group Up for Success
The 732nd Operations Support Squadron activated under the 732nd Operations Group at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, Jan. 23, 2019. The new unit, dubbed the “Archers,” will provide the support required for the MQ-9 Reaper attack squadrons within the 732nd OG to seamlessly execute their persistent attack and reconnaissance missions. DVIDS

US Strategic Command’s New $1.3B Facility Opening Soon at Offutt Air Force Base
A new $1.3 billion military facility that will serve as the U.S.'s military command headquarters during national emergencies will soon open at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha. Air Force Times

One More Thing …

Thank You For Your Service, Airman
A funeral home worried an Air Force vet wouldn't get a proper burial. Thousands of strangers made sure he did. CNN