July 30, 2020

Keith's Congressional Corner

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 Honorable Robert O’Brien, National Security Adviser

Due to mass protests over racial injustice, along with the parallel surge in coronavirus cases in several states, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien’s quote is a warning that our nation’s opponents are seeking to gain an advantage over democracies.

At its peak, more than 51 million Americans were put out of work.
Meanwhile, although the defense department is preparing for a second round of the coronavirus, it is slowly re-opening along with the states. Mirroring society’s challenges on COVID-19, the military has faced similar issues battling the pandemic.
Our nation is slowly learning to adapt and live with the coronavirus while re-opening our economy. We must do both because our nation’s economic health AND our national security relies upon it.
Despite budget fights due to the looming elections and a divided Congress, work on Capitol Hill continues.
Both chambers are seeking a fourth stimulus bill using different approaches. The democratic-led House passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act which includes a second stimulus check, student loan forgiveness, housing and food assistance, hazard pay, debt relief, six more months of COVID-19 unemployment, and approximately $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments. The republican-led senate last week considered a $1 trillion measure, that includes $105 billion to safely re-open schools, and focuses on “kids, jobs and health care.”
The full House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on July 21st. The Senate also moved to finalize its version of the $741 billion NDAA before it departs for a two-week recess. Thankfully, both bodies of Congress voted down the attempt to cut the defense budget by ten percent. Although the NDAA faces a veto threat due to the renaming of military (mostly U.S. Army) installations, the legislation has become law 59 years in a row, so it is a likely bet that it will be completed and signed into law later this year.
Budgets remain in doubt, and there is still a concern that FY 2021 will begin with yet another continuing resolution (CR). Next year’s defense budget will be challenged by rising COVID-19 pandemic costs and the resultant trillions of dollars borrowed for stimulus spending. Defense spending cannot be the bill payer.
This week, the House began preparing its first minibus appropriations bill, H.R. 7617, which includes seven FY 2021 spending bills: Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Financial Service and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.
The Defense appropriation bill funds DOD, including operations and maintenance, readiness activities, research and development, equipment modernization, and health and quality-of-life programs for our troops and military families

"We're in an era of great power competition … and that means that our top strategic competitors are China, then Russia. China is the bigger problem, as it has the population and economy to displace the United States. It's very clear to me and anybody who understands China that they have the ambition to displace us — certainly from the region and preferably on the global stage."
- The Honorable Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense

For FY 2021, the defense bill appropriates $694.6 billion for DOD, an increase of $1.3 billion above the FY 2020 enacted level, and $3.7 billion below the President’s budget request. This includes $626.2 billion in base funding, an increase of $3.5 billion above the FY 2020 enacted level, and $3.5 billion below the president’s request. It also includes $68.4 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending, a decrease of $2.2 billion below the FY 2020 enacted level, and $200 million below the President’s request.
Key House Defense Appropriations Provisions for the Department of the Air Force:

  • 333,700 active duty, an increase of 900 above current year and equal to the president’s budget request; 70,300 reserve, an increase of 200 above current year and equal to the request; and 108,100 Guard, an increase of 400 above current year and equal to the request
  • 3.0 percent military pay raise
  • Funds 91 F-35 aircraft, 12 more than the request ($9.3 billion)
  •  Funds 12 F-15EX aircraft to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet ($1.2 billion)
  • Funds the request of 15 KC-46 tankers ($2.7 billion)
  • Funds the request of 19 HH-60W combat rescue helicopters ($1.1 billion)
  • Funds 11 C/KC/MC-130J aircraft, 2 more than the request ($965 million)
  • Funds 16 MQ-9 Reaper air vehicles, 16 more than the request ($344 million)
  • Provides $623 million to procure two GPS IIIF spacecraft
  • Fully funds the continued development of the Air Force’s B-21 bomber program ($2.8 billion)
  • Fully funds development of the VC-25B Presidential Aircraft Replacement ($801 million)
  • Provides $258 million for the Global Positioning System IIIF program
  • Provides $380 million for Global Positioning System user equipment.
  • Provides $561 million for National Security Space Launch to develop new U.S. space launch vehicles
  • Provides $2.32 billion for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared
  • Fully funds the Defense Commissary Agency to ensure servicemembers and their families receive continued savings for food and household goods as part of the military pay and benefits package

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

Ms. Lord told lawmakers that DOD must spend low "double-digit" billions to reimburse defense contractors due to the pandemic, however, sufficient funds are not available without supplemental funding. Eighty top defense industry executives wrote to congressional leaders seeking emergency appropriations to reimburse defense contractors’ coronavirus-related costs. Last week, six CEOs from the major defense contractors wrote the president seeking supplemental funding to help the Pentagon and industrial base cope with the costs of the coronavirus pandemic.

I think it’s really important that we find a new model where there are no big winners, and no big losers, but continual competition. Because if our industrial base collapses any more, we’ll have to nationalize advanced aviation — and maybe other parts of the Air Force that currently aren’t competitive.”
- Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Roper started the national debate about fielding iterations of improved drones before 2030 and possibly nationalizing the aerospace industry to foster competition.

"The drones we're exploring fit into the broader concept of, 'It's time to not talk about X-generation aircraft, it's time to talk about next generation air power."
- Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics

Next year, the U.S. Air Force will hold an aerial combat demonstration that pits a drone against a fighter aircraft.


After nearly 40 years of service as a refueling and mobility airlift aircraft, the KC-10 Extender has begun its retirement now that the troubled KC-46 tanker is finally coming online.


"Here's a guy who's fought and led in combat in three different combatant commands," “[Gen. C.Q. Brown] …has been a deputy combatant commander. He's just coming out of the most important region in the globe ... so when the Air Force and the joint force gets to meet CQ and his wife Sharene, they're going to see very clearly why he was chosen.”
- Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, US Air Force

AFA wishes all the best to General David Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, as the general retires as Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force. AFA will continue to offer all its support to Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and his wife, Sharene, when the general is sworn in as Chief of Staff on Aug. 6.


U.S. AIR FORCE (USAF):  Fewer manned aircraft pilots in fiscal year 2019 accepted bonuses to remain in the cockpit than in previous years. The “take rate” dipped slightly from 45 percent in 2018 to 44 percent in 2019. On the bright side, more remotely piloted aircraft pilots are taking the bonuses.
The Air Force’s Inspector General is soliciting inputs from Airmen to identify racial biases in the service’s justice and professional development systems.
Lt. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck was nominated for appointment to the rank of general and assignment as commander of NORTHCOM and NORAD at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark was nominated for assignment as superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Go Falcons!
Long-time Air Force official Ms. Heidi Grant was announced as the next head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Ms. Grant is the first civilian to lead the office since it was created in 1998.
On June 17th the Secretary for Defense released the Defense Space Strategy, which identifies how Department of Defense will advance space power to be able to compete, deter, and win in a complex security environment characterized by great power competition.

Through the strategy, DoD will advance space power through the pursuit of three objectives: Maintain Space Superiority; Provide Space Support to National, Joint, and Combined Operations; and Ensure Space Stability.

Additionally, the Department will pursue four priority lines of effort to achieve the desired conditions while addressing identified threats, opportunities, and challenges:

  1. Build a comprehensive military advantage in space.
  2. Integrate military space power into national, joint, and combined operations.
  3. Shape the strategic environment.
  4. Cooperate with allies, partners, industry, and other U.S. Government departments and agencies.

On July 22nd, the USSF unveiled its new delta shaped logo and motto, Semper Supra-“Always Above.”
 The House appropriations committee provided a strong boost in funding to the department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in FY 2021. The VA typically has greater yearly increases than do other departments and agencies.
AFA takes part in weekly calls with the secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss veteran’s issues. Here are the main points from the last call:

  • The secretary is traveling often to VA’s facilities
  • The morale at the VA remains incredibly high
  • The number of veterans that are recovering from COVID-19 is a good news story
  • Veterans are increasing their trust in the VA
  • 41 percent of women veterans are enrolled with the VA
  • Veterans suicide—from Mrs. Rosalynn Carter until recently, there hasn’t been a national conversation/focus about Veterans’ suicide
  • The VA is anticipating a 2nd wave of COVID-19 and are re-stocking personal protection equipment (PPE) equipment

Thanked the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) for their support
  On a final note, this is my last week at AFA and my last AFA Legislative Update. Thanks to all that welcomed and read ‘Keith’s Congressional Corner.’ A special thanks to all those that flew on AFA’s wing to promote dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong national defense; to honor and support our Airmen, Space Force Professionals, and their Families; and to remember and respect our enduring Heritage. It has been an honor and privilege advocating on their behalf.

As an association, and collectively as The Military Coalition (TMC), we achieved several legislative accomplishments. We drove increased and stable and predictable defense budgets, procured more airplanes and satellites, and secured funding for the nuclear TRIAD. We fostered the biggest pay raise in a decade, influenced passage of enhanced Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, eliminated the ‘Widows Tax,’ testified on behalf of Arlington National Cemetery burial eligibility, protected the shopping benefits, facilitated Air Force Councils, and protected military health care. We also spearheaded and/or endorsed numerous Veterans bills.

There is more to do. I will continue to advocate on behalf of the military, families, and veterans, and I hope you 'Join the Fight' and partner with AFA on behalf of our Air Force and Space Force.

Air Force and Space Force Highlights

Gen. Jeff Harrigian: Air superiority is fundamental for US Air Force, but our enemies are gaining ground
FoxNews.com | 26 Jul 2020 | by Gen. Jeff Harrigan

The U.S. Air Force is a powerful force today. If it is to remain so, prioritized investment is required. Failure to do so will cost our nation its edge over our adversaries.

Since the Cold War we have enjoyed an uncontested aerial environment where we freely owned the high ground, in large part because of the air superiority investments we made after the Vietnam War. Today, as we look at what will threaten our nation and as we transition to an era of great power competition, we must prioritize our investment in air superiority.

Air superiority is critical to successful joint and coalition operations. Fighting against an enemy that wields precision weapons is complex enough. Doing so without a superior, capable and lethal air insurance policy is unimaginable.

2,410 Airmen Selected to Transfer to the Space Force
AirForceMag.com | 16 Jul 2020 | by Amy McCollough

The U.S. Space Force has selected 2,410 Airmen out of more than 8,500 Active-duty volunteers to transfer to the new service beginning Sept. 1, the service announced July 16.

The case for robust defense spending
DefenseNews.com | 16 Jul 2020 | by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), House Armed Services Committee

President John Adams once wrote: “National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a Statesman.” These words are as true now as they were when they were written in 1815. However, unlike in 1815, the weight of these words seems lost on some in Congress.

As Congress moves forward with the National Defense Authorization Act and the passage of the defense appropriations bill, there are irresponsible calls for blanket cuts to defense spending that are either misguided or willfully ignorant of the role the U.S. military plays in maintaining global stability.

In a time where China continues its unprecedented aggressive actions, such as pushing into contested territory in India, attempting to subdue Hong Kong and continuing to antagonize partner nations in the South China Sea; where Russia advances its malign global state-building agenda through overt means while simultaneously using paramilitary mercenaries such as the Wagner Group to do the Kremlin’s more insidious bidding; where Iran continues to terrorize the Middle East; and where North Korea remains a global nuclear threat, our response cannot be to cut our defense budget by nearly 50 percent, as suggested by some members of Congress.

I think a debate is that this will be the first time that the nation has tried to simultaneously modernize the nuclear enterprise while it’s trying to modernize an aging conventional enterprise. The current budget does not allow you to do both.”
- Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, US Air Force

We Don’t Have Enough Cash to Build New Nuclear Weapons, Says Air Force Chief
DefenseOne.com | 1 Jul 2020 | by Marcus Weisgerber

The Pentagon’s budget is not large enough to buy new nuclear weapons and conventional forces simultaneously, the U.S. Air Force’s top general said Wednesday.

Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein gave a blunt assessment of the Pentagon’s growing list of bills amid a growing US deficit, on Wednesday, suggesting nuclear expenses have grown so great they may require a separate account of their own.

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.

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.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Aug 6 - Air Force Chief of Staff Change of Command from Gen. David Goldfein to Gen. Charles Q. Brown
  • Sep 12-13 - AFA’s Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference
  • Sep 14-16 - AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord Conference Center, National Harbor, MD


  • Feb 26-28 - Air Warfare Symposium, Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel, Orlando, FL

If you have questions, please contact:

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