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​​Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2019. C-SPAN screenshot.

Wilson, Goldfein Pledge Housing Improvements Following Review, Propose Tenant Bill of Rights

The Air Force plans to improve the quality of privatized on-base housing through steps such as giving base commanders more oversight and improving communication with airmen to earn back their trust, top USAF officials told lawmakers on Thursday, as all three military services also proposed a draft “bill of rights” for military housing tenants. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

USAF Awards 51 Contracts, Each in 15 Minutes or Less, at First-Ever “Pitch Day”

Fifty-nine small businesses from 24 states came together in New York City on March 6-7 to pitch their innovative ideas to the Air Force in the hopes of breaking into the daunting world of military contracting. The Air Force awarded 51 contracts on Wednesday alone, immediately delivering $3.5 million with the swipe of a government credit card, with another $5.25 million to be delivered later. Col. Dale White, the program executive officer for ISR/SOF, said one company told him it was “quicker to get an Air Force contract than it is to get a beer in New York City.” Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Middle Eastern, African Partnerships In Spotlight at HASC

Top US generals in the Middle East and Africa told the House Armed Services Committee their partnerships with local militaries—of which air assets are a key component—will help stabilize the regions as America considers pulling out troops. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, also noted he doesn’t believe the time is right to remove forces from Afghanistan. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

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Statistics Show that US Aircraft Haven’t Slowed Operations in Afghanistan, Syria

US aircraft have shown no sign of slowing down in either the anti-ISIS war in Iraq and Syria or in Afghanistan, based on new statistics from Air Forces Central Command. Despite the ISIS physical caliphate dwindling to less than a square mile in Syria, US and coalition aircraft in January conducted 2,005 airstrikes in Operation Inherent Resolve, down almost 200 from the previous month but still substantially higher than any other month in 2018, according to AFCENT. Also, US and coalition airlift assets have also been busy, airdropping 125,560 pounds of supplies in January, more than one-sixth of 2018’s total. In Afghanistan, US aircraft conducted 463 strikes, down from the previous month but a higher total than January 2017. US airlifters continued their increased pace of airdrops, dropping 23,910 pounds during the month. —Brian Everstine

Votel: “I’m Responsible” for Failure to Recoup Refueling Costs

US Central Command boss Gen. Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee he takes the blame for the military’s failure to recoup $331 million from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in exchange for refueling services in Yemen’s civil war. “There were a variety of things that went wrong,” Votel said. “Mostly, we ignored our own well-developed protocols and procedures.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

USAF to Make Unaccompanied Assignments to Hungary Longer, Spain Shorter

Unaccompanied tour lengths are changing for Air Force installations in Hungary and Spain. Beginning April 1, unaccompanied assignments to Papa AB, Hungary will get longer, going from 15 to 18 months, while assignments to Moron AB, Spain, will shrink from 15 to 12 months. “The change was directed by the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, to bring all assignments outside the continental United States into compliance with standard tour lengths,” according to an Air Force Personnel Center release. The lengths of accompanied assignments to both bases will stay static, at 24 months. AFPC will notify airmen who are slated to deploy to either base after the new policy kicks in via email, the release said. "Cancellation requests may be considered on a case-by-case basis and will depend on mission impact, reporting dates, possible hardship situations and other factors,” the release said. "AFPC will work with airmen who experience legitimate hardships as a result of the change."—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

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XQ-58A Valkyrie UAV Completes Successful First Flight

The Air Force Research Laboratory and Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems’ XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle demonstrator had a successful first flight on Wednesday at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., according to a March 7 release from the 88th Air Base Wing. The “long-range, high subsonic” UAV spent 76 minutes in flight and “behaved as expected,” the release said. It’s being developed as part of AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which the release said is on the hunt for ways to keep the development of “tactically relevant aircraft” from getting more expensive. LCAAT looks to create “better design tools,” and mature and leverage “commercial manufacturing processes” to build unmanned aerial systems more quickly and cheaply, it explained. Future test flights will assess the functionality of its system, its “launch and recovery systems,” and how it performs aerodynamically. Video of the inaugural flight is available here.—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory


POTUS Orders Creation of Roadmap, Task Force to Fight Veterans Suicide

President Donald Trump ordered the creation of a task force whose job it will be to craft a roadmap for preventing veteran suicide, in a March 5 executive order. The Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force will be co-led by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and the assistant to the president for domestic policy, and also count several Cabinet secretaries and other officials among its ranks, the order said. The group is tasked with developing “specific strategies needed to” slash veteran suicide rates and prioritize community engagement, according to a VA release. Second, it must design “a program for making grants to local communities” to help them work together more easily, “integrate service delivery and coordinate resources to veterans.” It must also propose the program to Congress. Third, it must come up with “a national research strategy to improve the coordination, monitoring, benchmarking, and execution of research in the field of veteran suicide prevention.” The task force will enlist private- and public-sector assistance to tackle its assignments, the release said.—Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory
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RADAR SWEEP


Sustaining the Pack: Kunsan Becomes First Overseas Base to Migrate to Cloud Email
The United State Air Force’s role in the Department of Defense is to secure and maintain superiority in Air, Space, and Cyberspace. Kunsan Air Base took a giant step in February to ensure it maintains that superiority and has the best technology to support the mission. USPACOM News

US Cyber Command and Services Should Take Actions to Maintain a Trained Cyber Mission Force
The Defense Department began developing a Cyber Mission Force (CMF) in 2013 to defend its information networks and bring cyber skills to the battlefield. Here are the Government Accountability Office’s eight recommendations for executive action. GAO

US Sends B-52 Bomber Over Disputed South China Sea For First Time in Months
A US B-52 bomber was sent near disputed islands in the South China Sea and another circumnavigated Japan, conducting joint military exercises with the Air Self-Defense Force, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said Wednesday. Task and Purpose

Martin-Baker Develops Advanced Sequencer for Ejection Seats
Martin-Baker has developed new technologies, including an advanced sequencer and a new parachute, for both its US16E ejection seat found on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and its new Mk18 seat. Janes

Defense Department Pushing Ahead to Merge Commissary and Exchange Systems
Defense officials are a step closer to merging the three military exchange systems and the commissary system into one “defense resale enterprise.” Military Times

Air Force Academy Dismisses Hazing Charges Against 3 Cadets
The academy said Wednesday the charges were dropped after an investigation determined that a conviction would be inappropriate. AP

One More Thing …

‘Captain Marvel’ Pays Tribute to Air Force History—and a Fallen Thunderbird
“Captain Marvel,” the latest in Marvel’s series of blockbuster superhero films, is packed with hat tips and tributes to aviation history, culture and, in particular, a fallen Thunderbird whose death last year shook the Air Force. Air Force Times