US Capitol at night

Senate Sends NDAA to White House, House Approves Appropriations Plan

The Senate on Dec. 17 approved the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 86-8, sending the bill to the White House where President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. Also on Dec. 17, the House approved a $1.4 trillion spending plan that appropriates approximately the same $738 billion in defense spending.
340th EARS ensures airpower dominance

Esper: Drawdown in Afghanistan Possible, Would Enable Shift to Pacific

The US may soon drawdown forces in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Dec. 16. Commanders on the ground say they can accomplish their mission with a smaller footprint allowing the Defense Department to shift troops to higher priority locations. “I would like to go down to a lower number because I want to either bring those troops home, so they can refit and retrain for other missions or/and be redeployed to the Indo-Pacific to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition that’s vis-à-vis China,” Esper said.
Steven Walker DARPA USS Kearsarge

Walker Stepping Down as DARPA Head

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Steven Walker is stepping down from his position and heading to industry, the organization announced Dec. 17. Walker has led the agency since November 2017, having previously served as the agency’s acting director and deputy director.

AFRL Successfully Tests Next-Generation, Long Endurance RPA

The Air Force Research Laboratory recently conducted a successful test of a next-generation, customizable remotely piloted aircraft, flying the drone for about two and a half days earlier this month. The Ultra Long Endurance Aircraft Platform, known as Ultra LEAP, is a commercial airframe converted into a fully automated system, including autonomous takeoff and landing, with a customizable suite of surveillance tools.

Radar Sweep

USFK Ends Curfew

Defense Department release

United States Forces Korea ended the USFK-wide curfew for service members effective Dec. 17. The original 90-day curfew suspension, and subsequent 90-day curfew suspension extension assessments, imposed from June 17-Dec. 17, focused on service member behavior, morale, readiness factors, and the capability for USFK service members to maintain good order and discipline, at all times and under all conditions.

4,000 More Afghan Interpreters Could Get Special Immigrant Visas, Thanks to Defense Bill

Military Times

An additional 4,000 Afghan interpreters who helped US troops in Afghanistan could receive Special Immigrant Visas, thanks to a provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation means a total of 22,500 visas through the Special Immigrant Visa program could be issued to former Afghan interpreters—up from the 18,500 limit previously in place.

One More Thing

Researcher Receives US Air Force Award to Find New Ways to Make Fuels from Sunlight

Wayne State University press release

Much like previous researchers, Wayne State’s Aaron Rury also seeks to answer questions about using sunlight to power our world through fundamental scientific discoveries. In September 2018, Rury received an award from USAF’s Office of Scientific Research to look for ways to move away from traditional synthetic methods used to form the chemical fuels we use every day.