Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has introduced legislation aimed at restoring work now on the next generation bomber. Defense Secretary Robert Gates terminated the 2018 bomber, directed under the last Quadrennial Defense Review, with his 2010 defense budget proposal. Gates has said the Air Force did not define the new bomber’s mission well and wants more study on the platform and the requirement. He has stated that he believes there is a need, just not an immediate one, for a new bomber; he has also stated it might not need a pilot in the cockpit. Some lawmakers and defense analysts have argued that the need is pressing and the requirement was set by the 2006 QDR. Air Force leaders have agreed with Gates that the service had not explained the NGB’s attributes very well; however, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz maintained there is a need for a new long-range strike platform. He expects to see one fielded in the early 2020s. For Thune and others, that is not soon enough. His bill (S. 1044), which is titled “Preserving Future United States Capability to Project Power Globally Act of 2009, would put the bomber back in the 2010 defense budget. (Thune release)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.