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10 Jan 19. Boeing delivers first KC-46, but fixes to technical problems still years away. After more than a year of delays, the Air Force finally took hold of its first KC-46 tanker on Jan. 10, but it will take several years for the service and manufacturer Boeing to reconcile major technical problems, and the company will not be receiving the full amount of money due upon delivery.
The agreement, finalized after months of sometimes public and contentious discussions, allows McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas to receive the KC-46 as early as this month, with more set to follow, said Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin. However, the new tankers will arrive with several outstanding category 1 deficiencies, the term used by the military to describe the most serious level of technical problems.
That may sound like a blow to the Air Force, whose leaders had previously implied that all category 1 deficiencies would need to be fixed before tankers began getting accepted.
However, service leaders believe the Air Force retains significant financial leverage even as the KC-46 delivers, and they see it as vital that Air Mobility Command be able to begin training pilots and boom operators to use it even as technical problems are being corrected. (Source: Defense News)
07 Jan 19. Israel defense aid bill snared in shutdown showdown. The U.S. Senate was poised to take up legislation to impose new sanctions on Syria, boost security assistance to Israel and reauthorize defense cooperation with Jordan. But Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hope to block it on a procedural vote Tuesday, arguing the chamber should not consider any bills until it votes on House-passed legislation to end the partial government shutdown. The impasse is fueled by a partisan dispute over border wall funding sought by President Donald Trump.
Called the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act,” the bill promises to be a boon to Israel and potentially to American precision-guided munitions manufacturers. It rolls together four bills Democrats and Republicans supported in the last Congress but weren’t enacted before that Congress ended.
For Israel, the legislation would authorize the $3.3bn in U.S. security assistance under the two nations’ 2016 memorandum of understanding—and authorize new U.S.-Israel cooperation in anti-drone technologies, cybersecurity and space.
The legislation would extend authorization for the U.S. War Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years, authorizing an additional $1bn in stocks. It would also authorize the president to add precision-guided munitions to the stockpile for potential Israeli use in a conflict with Hezbollah.
The bill would authorize a joint assessment of the quantity and type of precision-guided munitions necessary for Israel to defend itself against Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups, and the bill would support rapid acquisition and deployment procedures for such munitions.
The legislation would also press the Trump administration to expedite export licensing for Israel by adding it to the list of nations eligible for the Strategic Trade Authorization Exception, according to a summary published by American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Outside of the Israel provisions, the bill would reauthorize the U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015 and impose new sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in response to alleged human rights violations.
“It is in America’s national security interests to ensure that our allies in the Middle East like Israel and Jordan remain secure amid the region’s growing destabilizing threats posed by Iran and Syria’s Assad regime,” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill, said in a statement.
The package’s backers include the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who expedited the bill and made it the first legislative priority of the new Congress, or S.1.
Schumer and a bloc of at least eight senators are opposing the bill because the shutdown remains unresolved, according to Jeff Stein, of the Washington Post. The action was started by Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen whose state is home to thousands of federal employees working without paychecks during the shutdown.
Monday saw a Twitter tiff between Cardin and Rubio after Rubio claimed that Democrats want to block the bill because of intra-party divisions over a provision that grants state and local governments legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. Not so, Cardin tweeted in response.
“The government shutdown is a crisis, impacting millions of Americans and our economy,” Cardin said. “We can’t simply proceed with business as usual. Reopening the [government] must be our first priority. #EndTheTrumpShutdown.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Jan 19. DoD has its topline budget figure. The Pentagon has officially received its topline budget figure for fiscal year 2020, according to acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist. Asked if the department had finally received its figure, Norquist confirmed it has, but declined to go into details on what the dollar figure would be. As of mid-December, before the sudden resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and his subsequent departure at the end of the year, the Pentagon said it had yet to receive a final budget figure, leading to questions about whether the budget may be delayed in its rollout. The Pentagon’s budget figure has seesawed dramatically over the last three months. The department had been planning for most of the year to a $733bn defense top-line figure, until the moment at an October Cabinet meeting when President Donald Trump announced the figure would be $700bn. That number, delivered close to the planned budget finalization date of Dec. 1, sent planners into a frenzy as they attempted to develop a pair of budget offerings matched to both levels. The situation changed again when, following a meeting with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and congressional defense leaders, Trump reportedly boosted the budget to $750bn. In his comments, Norquist indicated that the budget rollout will still happen come February, although what impact the ongoing government shutdown may have on that plan is unknown. (Source: Defense News)
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