July 03, 2020

Keith's Congressional Corner

“We were doing a lot of work towards becoming a more diverse force, but we have an opportunity in front of us right now to put our foot on the gas and really move forward in the ways we need to move.”
- Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force

Since our last update, our nation took steps towards restoring some ‘normalcy.’ Many of our states have re-opened to varying degrees returning millions of Americans to work after approximately 40 million were unemployed. Unfortunately, several hot spots are slowing the recovery.

In April, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned about a summer of violence and radicalization. COVID-19 still remains a threat and after weeks of racial and social unrest, our nation’s security has risen in priority and importance.

"Notwithstanding all our other differences, I hope and expect this body will be able to put partisanship aside and honor the bipartisan tradition that has defined this crucial bill for decades."
- Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Majority Leader

The senate completed work on its Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA). The policy bill authorizes $740 billion for national defense in FY 2021 and aligns with congress’ spending cap agreement. It also provides a 3-percent military pay raise, supports the National Defense Strategy’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific theater, and accelerates innovation.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) marked their version of the NDAA last week and continues its work in the full committee this week. The HASC’s version of the NDAA largely meets the Department of the Air Force’s budget request but is short of the generous levels provided by the Senate.

This week, the Senate hopes to complete its work on the floor before their July 4th Recess. Since the Intelligence Authorization bill typically does not get floor time for consideration, we expect the bill will be included as an amendment to the NDAA.

Since the NDAA has passed 59 years in a row, it is a likely bet that it will be completed and signed into law later this year.

“There’s a choice there. Whether we want to eat into readiness and modernization--and slow down modernization or readiness on an ongoing basis--or whether we want to remedy the situation in the next six months or so…and continue to have the ready forces we need for our national security.”
- The Honorable Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

The NDAA’s policy provisions along with defense appropriations are key. Recently, national security advisor Robert O’Brien, warned, “Our adversaries are attempting to take advantage of current circumstances to do us harm or gain an edge on America and the free world.”

The Pentagon’s chief of acquisitions testified that the defense department need to advance low "double-digit" billions to shore up defense contractors, however, they do not have the funding to do so.

Readiness of our Air Force and Space Forces remain a concern.

As our nation prepares to celebrate its 244th birthday, AFA wishes you and your families a very happy and safe Independence Day.


U.S. AIR FORCE (USAF):  The military services experienced a decline in the total number of aviation mishaps in 2019. Sadly, this week the Air Force had its fourth fighter aircraft accident since May.

The animal rights organization, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sent a June 30th letter to the U.S. Air Force Academy slamming the use of live falcons as the academy’s mascot.


U.S. SPACE FORCE (USSF):  The senate’s NDAA:

  •  Establishes a Space Force reserve component, but delays establishment of a Space National Guard until the completion of a study on the issue
  • Prohibits the transfer of military installations to Space Force prior to analysis by the Secretary of the Air Force being presented to the congressional defense committees
  • Continues development of the space technology base, including launch vehicles and responsive launch, and recognizes the maturity of reusable space launch capability


VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA):  In my weekly call with the secretary of VA, we learned that they are modernizing their supply chain and are “in good shape regarding (pandemic) supplies.” They held 59.9 million medical appointments last year with rising satisfaction results.


AFA ADVOCACY:  The Defense Health Agency (DHA) Director Lt Gen Ronald Place, along with the U.S. Surgeon General Admiral Jerome Adams, held its monthly meeting with AFA and several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). We were able to ask about the cuts in Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) and the proposed cuts of 18,000 military medical personnel. So far, health officials have performed 20 million COVID-19 tests while DHA has made many strides in deregulating telemedicine. Adverse impacts of the pandemic have led to a backlog of medical procedures and care, increased unemployment, and higher suicide rates.

Along with a handful of military family associations, I took part in Housing Roundtable meetings to discuss the need for continuing communications between housing officials and military family tenants. We are also advocating the need for DOD to standardize the services’ Tenants Bill of Rights and their Dispute Resolution Process. 

As a member of the Exchange Retiree Advisory Council, I met last week with The Exchange CEO to discuss their proactive efforts to re-build business, maintain staffs, and serve their military customers, families, and veterans. Their E-Commerce sales have increased 88 percent. Unfortunately, due to the adverse impact of the pandemic, their revenues have been cut directly, and the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) dividend will likely be cut dramatically.

Air Force and Space Force Highlights

The Air Force fared okay in the senate’s NDAA:

  • Protects the Defense Industrial base and improves the Supply Chain
  • Encourages the development of our hypersonic weapons, as well as defenses against hypersonic weapons
  • Authorizes more than $300 million above the President’s request for DOD Science and Technology research
  • Requires the Secretary of the Air Force to develop an analysis on the applicability of the Advanced Battle Management System to the broader Joint All-Domain Command and Control efforts
  • Establishes a minimum number of aircraft for each major mission area in the U.S. Air Force and prohibits the divestment of aircraft until the minima are reached to ensure that Air Force can meet NDS and combatant command requirements
  • Requires the Air Force to have no fewer than 386 available operational squadrons or equivalent organizational units 
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to recommend a minimum number of bomber aircraft
  • Addresses issues with the KC-46 remote visual system operational limits
  • Includes $5.5 billion to procure 60 F-35As  [procures 95 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, an additional 14 aircraft above the administration’s request] 
  • Authorizes active-duty end strength levels largely consistent with the Administration request-- Air Force: 333,475 Personnel 
  • Continues efforts to promote professional development opportunities for military spouses 
  • Prohibits the service secretaries from leasing any substandard family housing 
  • Encourages the military health system to implement telehealth and virtual health technologies 
  • Includes numerous provisions to attract and hire top [civilian] talent across the industry 


USAF:  $17.4 billion for aircraft procurement ($464 million cut)
$2.4 billion for missiles
$596.3 million for ammunition
$23.6 billion for other communications and support equipment ($72 million cut)

USSF: $2.4 billion for procurement ($38 million cut)

Research and Development (R&D)
: $37.1 billion ($300 million cut)
USSF: $10.4 billion (slight increase)

Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
$34.4 billion
USSF: $2.5 billion

  • Authorizes almost $732 billion in discretionary spending for national defense, including approximately $69 billion of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)
  • Provides for a 3-percent military pay raise
  • Adds nearly $600 million in science and technology funding
  • Reduces KC-46A procurement to the minimum sustaining rate (authorizes 12 aircraft; request was for 15) to minimize the number of aircraft that will require modification of the Remote Vision System given the Remote Vision System 2.0 is still in development
  • Because of delays and problems fielding the new KC-46 tanker, prevents planned USAF retirements of KC-135 tankers until after FY 2023
  • Requires the USAF to retain 50 KC-10A aircraft in FY21; 38 primary mission KC-10A aircraft in FY 2022; and 26 primary mission KC-10A aircraft in FY 2023
  • Allows the Air Force to retire 17 B-1B bombers as planned, as long as it maintains a force of at least 24 combat-coded planes
  • Establishes a statutory floor that the USAF is required to retain for air refueling aircraft
  • Establishes a statutory floor that the USAF is required to retain for tactical airlift aircraft
  • Blocks ending MQ-9 Reaper production this year
  • Supports the budget request for 79 F-35 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps
  • Supports the budget request for the Air Force’s F-15EX tactical fighter and T-7A training aircraft programs
  • Fences off 85 percent of the planned funding for the Next Generation Air Dominance program until after an independent review performed by the Pentagon’s director of cost assessment and program evaluation (CAPE)
  • Bans the retirement of E-8C Joint STARS fleet until the USAF finds a suitable replacement
  • Provides funding to support the propulsion and propeller upgrades of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H airlift aircraft
  • Provides full funding for the B-21 Raider program
  • Requires preservation of critical close air support capabilities and force structure capacity during fiscal year 2021 by restricting retirement of Air Force A-10 aircraft
  • Creates deputy assistant secretary for sustainment position
  • Requires quarterly briefings on the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept
  • Provides full funding for the VC-25B Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program
  • Provides additional funding for EC-37B Compass Call aircraft
  • Provides additional funding for E-8 JSTARS modernization
  • Cuts $85.5 million from the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS)
  • Adds $30 million for disposable drones
  • Promotes at least three launch providers, instead of the current two, in the National Security Space Launch Program (NSSL)
  • Calls for the National Guard and Reserve components to assist in defending the nation in cyberspace
  • Directs the DOD to provide more details in its annual suicide reports to Congress
  • Creates a $1 billion pandemic response and preparedness fund
  • Identifies $3.6 billion that requires the Pentagon to produce analysis before increasing its presence in the Pacific
  • Terminates's DOD’s Chief Management Officer (CMO) position
  • Bans DOD from contracting with organizations that engage in commercial terrestrial operations using certain frequency ranges ― unless the defense secretary certifies the operations do not cause harmful interference to a the military’s GPS devices
  • Maintains the enacted FY 2020 funding levels for Stars and Stripes
  • Requires DOD to study the effect of allowing military spouses to contribute or make eligible retirement account transfers to the military Thrift Savings Plan account of the Member of the Armed Forces to whom the military spouse is married
  • Provides additional funding for procurement of additional Civil Air Patrol aircraft 

Here’s how the Space Force will be organized
DefenseNews.com | 30 Jun 2020 | by Valerie Insinna

Many of the U.S. Air Force’s space acquisition organizations will be moved into a brand-new “Space Systems Command” to be created under the fledgling Space Force, but it still remains nebulous whether space procurement arms from the Army, Navy and Pentagon will also fall under the command’s purview.

On June 29, the Space Force announced that it will be comprised of three field commands: Space Operations Command, Space Training and Readiness Command, and the aforementioned Space Systems Command.

Senators Continue Building Space Force with Caution
AirForceMag.com | 12 Jun 2020 | by Rachel S. Cohen

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill, approved June 10, would temporarily stop the military from transferring its installations into the Space Force. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett would first need to send an analysis of those potential transfers to Capitol Hill.

Boeing Sees $44 Billion Tanker Decision Delayed by Four Years
BloombergQuint.com | 11 Jun 2020 | by Anthony Capaccio

The U.S. Air Force has delayed by four years a decision on whether the $44 billion KC-46 tanker program should be approved for full-rate production while contractor Boeing Co. tries to show it has fixed the flawed camera system used for the plane’s midair refueling mission.

An Air Force statement issued late Monday said the decision will come in July to September of 2024. It was previously planned for this September, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the service, disclosed on Tuesday.

The latest delay means the Air Force and lawmakers who provide funds for the troubled tanker will have an even longer wait before learning whether the aircraft put under contract in 2011 will be effective in its combat mission and can be maintained.

“The department does not have the funding to cover these costs.”
- The Honorable Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

Defense industry’s COVID costs could tank DoD modernization plans
DefenseNews.com | 10 Jun 2020 | by Joe Gould

The Pentagon is facing billions of dollars in pandemic-related claims, which may force it to dip into modernization and readiness accounts if Congress doesn’t backfill the money, the department’s top acquisitions official said Wednesday.

How the Air Force Watchdog Will Study Racial Disparities
AirForceMag.com | 10 Jun 2020 | by Stephen Losey

The Air Force Inspector General wants to hear from a broad range of Airmen as it tries to identify racial biases in the service’s justice and professional development systems.

Extended COVID response hurting Air National Guard retention
AirForceTimes.com | 10 Jun 2020 | by Brian Everstine  

The Air National Guard’s lengthening response to the coronavirus crisis is hurting its retention efforts, and could cause it to drop about 1,000 air guardsmen below its authorized levels.

Senate Confirms Brown to Lead Air Force in Historic Vote
AirForceMag.com | 10 Jun 2020 | by Rachel S. Cohen

Senators confirmed Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as the first black military service chief in American history in a 98-0 vote June 9.

Brown, the decorated four-star general in charge of Pacific Air Forces, will begin his four-year term as Air Force Chief of Staff once he is sworn in on Aug. 6. His confirmation comes as the military responds to nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism, spurred by George Floyd’s death in Minnesota last month.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Sep 12-13 - AFA's National Convention, Gaylord Conference Center, National Harbor, MD
  • Sep 14-16 - AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord Conference Center, National Harbor, MD

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel, (Ret.), USAF
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)