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​Hawaii-based service members from every service branch, Defense Department personnel, and military/DOD families form a a yellow suicide awareness ribbon in support of National Suicide Awareness Month at the Joint Services Suicide Prevention Proclamation signing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Navy photo by MC2 Charles Oki.

​DOD Releases Inaugural Military Family Suicide Statistics

Nearly 190 US military family members killed themselves in 2017, according to the Pentagon’s first-ever statistics tracking self-inflicted deaths of those related to service members. The Defense Department released the data Sept. 26 as part of its new Annual Suicide Report. The new report, intended to complement another annual DOD publication on suicide, comes in the wake of the Air Force’s effort to stem its own suicide epidemic. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

AFIMSC Refines Disaster Response Plans for Future Storms

The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, a key part of the service's disaster response effort following hurricanes and other crises, is making tweaks to help USAF bases move forward faster. Created in 2015, the center's job includes connecting those affected by crises to others within the service that can address everything from family assistance to immediate cleanup to long-term construction. “We found after [Hurricane] Michael that we had to put two or three task forces together,” AFIMSC Commander Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox told Air Force Magazine on Sept. 17. “If we can lean forward on that, and have that team identified and be ready to go and say, “Hey, you got it for this month, you got it for this month, you got it for this quarter, we can plan around it,’ then all we’ve got to do is call those folks, get them on a plane to go.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Goldfein on Meeting Bomber Mission Requirements as B-1 Readiness Drops

The Air Force stands alone in flying bombers and meeting the need for long-range critical strike. This poses unique considerations for the service, leading to increased reliance on B-52s to satisfy the world’s requirements as it reassesses its future B-21 buy and recovers the B-1B Lancer fleet from heavy use in the Middle East, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said. “I don’t have any other countries that have bombers. We’re it. We’re the only game in town,” he said. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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Congress Sends Stopgap Funding Measure to Trump

The federal government is expected to remain open through Nov. 21 under a continuing resolution passed 82-15 in the Senate on Sept. 26, and last week in the House, that now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk. While the legislation contains some exceptions to fund certain federal programs once fiscal 2020 begins Oct. 1, the Defense Department is held to its 2019 spending level and cannot launch any new-start programs until a defense spending bill is signed into law. Appropriators are still hashing out the details of a 2020 defense spending bill that can pass both legislative chambers. A CR will immediately “disrupt major exercises and training events, affect readiness and maintenance, curtail hiring and recruitment actions, and adversely impact contracting negotiations,” the Pentagon said Sept. 20. The Defense Department also noted that the stopgap measure would delay early parts purchases for the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, putting its delivery date at risk; push back a procurement contract for 32 advanced helicopter training systems for the Navy and Marine Corps; and affect B-52 readiness by delaying a GPS upgrade program by 18 months. An Air Force spokeswoman declined to comment Sept. 25 on the effects of a CR. —Rachel S. Cohen

Hyten Confirmed as Pentagon’s No. 2 Uniformed Official

The Senate on Sept. 26 confirmed Air Force Gen. John Hyten to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a 75-22 vote. Hyten, the head of US Strategic Command, will replace now-retired USAF Gen. Paul Selva as the Pentagon’s No. 2 uniformed leader. The White House nominated Hyten for the role in April, but the four-star faced a rocky confirmation process complicated by sexual assault allegations that the Air Force investigated and could not corroborate. Hyten, who has a background in space and nuclear operations, is expected to be a leading voice as US Space Command stands up, as a Space Force may come to fruition, and as the Defense Department overhauls its nuclear enterprise. The Trump administration has not yet named Hyten’s replacement. —Brian Everstine

Air Force Looks to “Alpha Warrior” to Change PT Culture

The Air Force wants more airmen to take advantage of its “American Ninja Warrior”-like fitness rigs it has deployed to dozens of bases in one of multiple steps to change an overall culture of physical training. Beginning in 2017, the service deployed “Alpha Warrior” training rigs to bases around the world. The rigs combine an obstacle course with Crossfit-like training to give airmen more “functional fitness” aligned with their jobs. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who has pushed for adoption of the fitness effort, says his feedback is that the systems haven’t gotten as much use as hoped for so “someone’s got to own it” to have it live up to its potential. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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RADAR SWEEP


Pentagon Official in Charge of F-35 Operating Costs and Privatized Military Housing Resigns
Assistant Defense Secretary for Sustainment Robert McMahon, whose purview includes operating costs for the uber-expensive F-35 and addressing problems in privatized military housing, has submitted his resignation effective as of Nov. 22, said Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb. Task & Purpose 

AFRL Issues New Tech Challenge, Uses Bespoke Contracts
In its new “opportunity call,” the Air Force Research Laboratory is looking to fund applied research on in-flight arming and refueling systems; vehicle tracking in commercial imagery; and personnel recovery kit delivery systems. It intends to make four to seven awards, each in the $1 million to $2 million range, according to the Sept. 26 announcement. Submissions are due Nov. 11, with funding invitations distributed by March 2020. Breaking Defense

Air Force Wants to Continue Recovery Training in Southwest
The US Air Force wants to use 179 public and private properties across the Southwest for training on recovering personnel such as downed pilots. Associated Press via US News

Pentagon Looking for AI to Interpret “Strategic Activity” Around the Globe
The Defense Department’s startup outreach office is looking for artificial intelligence tools that can keep help Pentagon officials understand trends in world events. NextGov

Defense Innovation Unit Launches New Satellite Imagery Prize Challenge
The Defense Innovation Unit announced Sept. 25 it has posted the satellite images for its second prize challenge known as xVIEW2, which focuses on using artificial intelligence to assess damage from natural disasters. Competitors vying for $150,000 in prizes have to develop computer vision algorithms to automate the process of assessing building damage after natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and wind. Space News

Are Air Defense Systems Ready to Confront Drone Swarms?
The attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities on Sept. 14 served as a reality check for countries struggling to define the level of the threat posed by drone swarms and low-altitude cruise missiles. Now, in a region where that threat is particularly acute, countries are left to reexamine existing air defense technology. Defense News

US, Bulgaria Participate in Bilateral Training Exercise Rapid Buzzard
US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft and airmen assigned to the 510th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano AB, Italy, and airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Squadron, 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein AB, Germany, are participating in the bilateral training exercise, Rapid Buzzard, with the Bulgarian air force at Graf Ignatievo AB, Bulgaria. USAF release

One More Thing …

Congress Votes to Issue Coin for “Teacher in Space” Christa McAuliffe
The US Mint will memorialize the first teacher who launched toward space with a new coin that will help continue her mission of science and technology education. The US House of Representatives passed the Christa McAuliffe Commemorative Coin Act of 2019 on Sept. 19, directing the Mint to produce a $1 silver coin honoring the fallen educator, who died alongside her six crewmates on board the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Approved by the Senate in July, the bill will now go to the White House for the president to sign into law. Space.com