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House passes Brooks bill designating Marshall as NASA’s rocket propulsion lead

Brandon Moseley

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Last Wednesday afternoon, on a unanimous bipartisan voice vote, the U.S. House passed Congressman Mo Brooks’, R-Huntsville, bill, HR5345, the “American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act” or “ALSTAR Act.” The bill formally designates Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center as NASA’s lead center for rocket propulsion. In addition, the ALSTAR Act directs Marshall to explore, develop, coordinate and mature new rocket propulsion technology in cooperation with government and private sector partners.

“I appreciate my colleagues’ support for designating Marshall Space Flight Center as NASA’s lead center for rocket propulsion,” Congressman Brooks said. “It is gratifying to see the ALSTAR Act pass the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. My colleagues recognize that developing and improving rocket propulsion is essential to America’s maintaining our leadership in space exploration and national security. In turn, my colleagues also recognize that Marshall Space Flight Center is best equipped to take the lead on exploring, developing, and maturing new rocket propulsion technology in cooperation with government and private sector partners. Perhaps most importantly, the ALSTAR Act formally protects the Marshall Space Flight Center’s rocket propulsion efforts and team from those political forces that may, in the future, seek to shift Marshall’s rocket propulsion efforts, and jobs, elsewhere.”

“As Congress guides America’s national space policy, we must promote the robust rocket propulsion industrial base that is essential to our space presence,” Rep. Brooks said. “After all, rocket propulsion is fundamental to everything we do in space. The ALSTAR Act ensures the long-term stability of the rocket propulsion industry through better coordination and collaboration between all relevant stakeholders.”

Marshall is one of NASA’s largest field installations, with almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees, an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion and a broad spectrum of human spaceflight, science and technology development missions.

On March 15, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) signed an executive order officially naming the new space center the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center. General George C. Marshall was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II. He selected then Major Eisenhower for a series of promotions that eventually led him to being the top allied officer in the European Theatre. Following the war, Marshall served as Secretary of State for the Truman Administration where he won the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Marshall Plan that provided aid to Europe to recover from World War II. Also on March 16, 1960, Eisenhower signed an executive order transferring the Saturn rocket program from the Army to NASA. On September 8, President Eisenhower visited Huntsville, Ala. to dedicate the new NASA field center. The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center was placed under the direction of former German scientist Dr. Wernher Von Braun. As part of his remarks dedicating the center, President Eisenhower referred to General Marshall as a “man of war, yet a builder of peace.”

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The Marshall Space Flight Center was tasked with building the Saturn V rocket that launched man to the moon in 1969. Marshall has been heavily involved in numerous NASA missions including the Apollo landings on the surface of the moon, Skylab, the Space Shuttle program that carried a generation of Americans into space, the Hubble Telescope which has revolutionized astronomy, and the Space Launch System which has the potential to possibly get man to Mars.

Brooks added, “Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of the American space program. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team famously pioneered rocket propulsion at Marshall during the Space Race of the 50s and 60s. Marshall has decades of experience working with other government agencies and industry partners to study and coordinate rocket propulsion technologies that are critical to national security, intelligence gathering, communications, weather forecasting, navigation, communications, entertainment, land use, Earth observation, and scientific exploration. The ALSTAR Act solidifies Marshall’s status as America’s premier rocket propulsion center and challenges Marshall to develop the next generation of rocket propulsion technology.”

“With President Trump’s establishment of Space Force as an independent branch of the military, rocket propulsion is recognized as even more important to securing America’s future than ever before because America’s military relies heavily on its space assets (global positioning satellites being but one example) to protect our national security,” Brooks said in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the military’s Redstone Arsenal have over the last 60+ years transformed Huntsville from a farming and textiles community to one of the foremost aerospace and technology hubs in the entire world.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes the Marshall Space Flight Center.

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Senate passes defense FY2019 appropriations bill

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced final Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) Defense Appropriations Act. The bill was included in the conference report to accompany H.R. 6157, the minibus appropriations package which also contains the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill.

The package provides $674.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, which is an increase of $19.8 billion above the FY2018 enacted level. The House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. If the house passes it, the package will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

“This is the most significant step we have taken yet,” said Senator Shelby. “For the first time in a decade, we are sending a Defense spending bill to the President’s desk on time. Returning to regular order has required us all to sacrifice and work together for the good of the process. I want to thank my colleagues – particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy – for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate. This conference report contains critical funding for defense and domestic priorities. It accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The appropriations minibus conference report was approved in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 7.

The Department of Defense portion of the package contains funding for defense priorities throughout the state of Alabama.

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“We must approve defense appropriations legislation to fund military readiness, procurement, and testing — all of which are required to keep U.S. military forces the best trained, equipped, prepared, and strongest force in the world,” continued Senator Shelby. “This historic legislation further highlights Alabama’s strong national defense capabilities and provides our state with the opportunity to continue producing essential tools to support our men and women in uniform. I am confident that this legislation will allow our defense programs to remain of the highest caliber.”

The Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills represent the majority of discretionary federal spending. Neither has been signed into law before the end of the fiscal year in a decade. The measure provides an outline for military leaders to have the resources they need to meet current and future threats to U.S. national security.

The legislation includes items critical for the Wiregrass including: an additional $95 million for future vertical lift research, which will help accelerate development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker; $10 million to upgrade Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; $1.0 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; $111 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) (The measure also encourages the Navy to evaluate the capabilities and costs of a surface-launched LRASM.); $307 million for Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGMs); $663 million for Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSMs), which recently made its debut in strikes on Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons; $484 million for Hellfire missiles, which are made in Troy and used for training at Fort Rucker; $254 million for Javelin missiles for the Army and Marine Corps.

The legislation has provisions impacting North Alabama including: $11.1 billion for investments in researching transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs; $10.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), including $1.1 billion to support urgent MDA unfunded priorities and emergent threats; $191 million for Standard Missile Improvements, which are built in Decatur, and supports work done by MDA at Redstone Arsenal and many local companies; $184 million in additional funding to further develop directed energy technology and transition these activities to both offensive and defensive capabilities; $664 million in additional funding to support and accelerate offensive and defensive hypersonics research and prototyping efforts; An additional $15 million to integrate Small Glide Munitions onto on Unmanned Aerial Systems (This highly successful weapon is used by Special Operations Command and built in Huntsville); $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $127 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. This bill encourages the enhanced use of cyber red teams to address cyber intrusions that threaten our weapons systems, an area of particular excellence for Huntsville.

In space, the defense bill includes” $200 million in additional funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts to ensure assured access to space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets in Decatur, continues to be seen as the most reliable and capable space launch provider.

The bill even includes Advanced Shipbuilding Capabilities with $15 million to establish North Alabama as a center for classified, high power large-scale electron beam welding. This technology is critical to new Navy Columbia-class submarines and many high-performance aerospace systems such as hypersonic reentry vehicles, scramjet missiles, and rocket and jet engine turbomachinery.

The legislation has provisions impacting Anniston including: $276 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters; Funding for Army Vehicles which are overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD): $2.5 billion to continue modernizing M1 Abrams tanks; $393 million for Stryker vehicles, including an additional $94 million to support increased Stryker DVH A1 conversions; An additional $110 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and $18 million in additional funding for M88A2 Hercules Improved Recovery vehicles.

The legislation also has provisions impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry including: Two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship; An additional $700 million in Advance Procurement for LPD and LHA amphibious ships.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Shelby has served the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1986.

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9/11 Memorial stair climb held Sunday in Montgomery

Brandon Moseley

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Most people can easily climb one flight of stairs, but going two flights of stairs in a three-story home is a little more challenging. Many people start looking for the elevator to reach the fourth floor in an office building. Climbing the stairs in a ten-story office building is a cardio workout for most folks.

Imagine trying to climb 110 floors in full firefighter gear with a building on fire and thousands of people needing your assistance? That “worst scenario” is what New York City Fire Department firefighters faced on September 11, 2001.

412 first responders were killed that day, including 343 firefighters.

In honor of those fallen heroes, seven years ago the Pike Road Fire Department organized the Annual Alabama Remember 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Participants climb 110 stories in Montgomery. Obviously, there is nothing like the 110 story World Trade Center towers in Alabama. The closest tower we can come up with in Montgomery is the RSA Tower, the tallest building in Montgomery at 397 feet. To equal the former WTC towers, participants in the Memorial Stair Climb have to climb the stairs in the 22 story tall RSA Tower five times.

This year’s memorial stair climb was held on Sunday, September 16, 2018. The Alabama Remembers 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is a way for firefighters and members of the community to individually honor and pay tribute to those heroic FDNY firefighters. Opening ceremonies were at 9:00 AM and the climb started at 10:00 AM. Participants raised money and worked at their own pace to complete the challenge. Some firefighters did it in full gear. Individuals, teams, current firefighters, and corporate sponsors all contributed to this event. The City of Montgomery and RSA donated manpower and use of the skyscraper to complete the climb.

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This year’s attendees included: Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Doug Singleton, Economic Developer Nicole Jones, representatives from fire departments across Alabama and the Florida panhandle, and hundreds of participants and spectators wanting to honor the heroic sacrifices of the first responders on 9/11.

The Town of Pike Road shared on social media, “Red, white, and blue (skies) were the center of attention this morning at the #AlabamaRemembers Memorial Stair Climb, hosted each year by Pike Road Fire. Firefighters from across the state came together to pay tribute to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while responding to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It was an honor to be part of this incredible event! Thank you, Pike Road Fire, volunteers, and event organizer Dana Grubbs for all you do for our community with this event, and every day!”

The event coordinator is Dana Grubbs.

“Volunteers climb 22 floors, five times each, to equal the 110 floors of the World Trade Center. It hits home to first responders, because of 343 firefighters who died from the New York Fire Department,” Grubbs said. “That is the largest number of firefighters who died at any one time. The annual event is open to the public. Anyone can come and join us.”
“This was definitely a challenge,” said Trussville firefighter Jacob Carr. “My hat goes off to the guys that actually did it. That is the thing driving me to finish up today.”

Economic developer Nicole Jones completed the climb in a record thirty minutes.

“It is difficult to put into words the emotion experienced today as we climbed 110 stories in memory of fallen 9/11 firefighters,” Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “This beautiful event on a Montgomery Sunday forever etched a token of appreciation for fallen 9/11 firefighters on my heart. Each participant was assigned a fallen hero. To the family of Captain Thomas C. Moody, I will climb annually in your honor.”

The Stair Climb benefits the FDNY Counseling Service Unit (CSU) and the programs provided by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to support the families of our nation’s fallen firefighters.

According to Wikipedia, the RSA Tower was built in 1996 and is the sixth largest building in the state of Alabama. The tallest building in Alabama is the RSA Battle House Tower in Mobile. The RSA Battle House Tower, built in 2007, is 745 feet tall and has 35 floors.

2,977 people were killed in the September 11 attacks. Since 9-11 over 1000 of the workers involved in the aftermath of 9-11, many of them the first responders involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, have died from illnesses associated with the toxic mix of ash and dust swirling from the burning craters of the WTC towers. Over 37,000 are officially acknowledged as having illnesses (many of them lung illnesses) associated with being at or near ground zero in the days and weeks following 9-11. Health officials have suggested that within five years the number who will have died from 9-11 syndrome will exceed the number that died on September 11, 2001.

(Original reporting from WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery contributed to this report.)

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DeVos: School districts can use federal money to arm administrators, teachers

Brandon Moseley

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via Gage Skidmore / Flikr

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says that she believes that school districts can use federal ESSA dollars to purchase weapons for teachers or school administrators.

Sec. DeVos said that she believes that Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants under Title IV money of the ESSA law can be used for weapons; but that is a decision that is left to state and local school boards to decide. The money can already be used for a range of purposes, including arts education, Advanced Placement course fees, school safety, foreign-language classes, computer science, and student mental health.

That pot of money received a $700 million boost in the most recent spending bill, to $1.1. billion. Most districts receive at least $10,000 under the grant and some receive $1 million or more.

U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) and a group of Democratic lawmakers wrote to DeVos asking if she was going to write any guidance on this for districts.

“Let me be clear: I have no intention of taking any action concerning the purchase of firearms or firearms training for school staff under the ESEA,” DeVos wrote in response to the letter from Rep. Scott. “Congress did not authorize me or the department to make those decisions.”

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U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan told the Associated Press that states and local jurisdictions always “had the flexibility” to decide how they use their federal education funds.

Brogan told the AP that arming educators “is a good example of a profoundly personal decision on the part of a school or a school district or even a state.”

Some state school boards, led by Massachusetts and Connecticut, have already passed orders banning districts from using the ESEA money to arm school teachers.

Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida some Alabama state legislators wanted to arm teachers in order to provide a last line of defense against the possibility that a gunman will similarly attack Alabama children. State Representative Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) introduced legislation that would allow certain teachers and administrators that pass a mental health evaluation and receive similar training that police officers receive. The leadership did not advance that legislation.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) has appointed a task force to look at how the state can improve school security. After the legislature failed to act, Gov. Ivey issued an executive order allowing one school administrator to be armed in schools that do not have school resource officers (SRO) assigned to it.
In Jefferson County, Sheriff Mike Hale (R) has developed a plan to put a SRO in every school in the county.

There are an estimated 300 million guns in America, the overwhelming majority of them in civilian hands. There is no known way to stop a gun man over than to use another gun man.

At this time, the Alabama Political Reporter is not aware of any Alabama school districts that are using federal ESSA dollars to purchase weapons for teachers or school administrators.

Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking her own term as Governor in the November 6 election. She faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D). Rep. Will Ainsworth is the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor. He faces Muscle Shoals pastor Dr. Will Boyd (D).

(Original reporting by Education Week’s Alyson Klein contributed to this report.)

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/09/12/devos-tries-to-steer-clear-of-debate.html?cmp=eml-enl-et-news1&M=58612761&U=2931344

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EIA members send crews to help those affected by Hurricane Florence

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Three members of the state’s association for energy companies have united to send work crews to help the citizens affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

In addition to thousands of workers from Alabama Power who were deployed to North Carolina, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Alabama Rural Electric Association sent more than 230 linemen, along with trucks, helicopters, maintenance teams and support staff to work hand-in-hand with onsite utilities, such as Duke Energy and electric cooperatives, to restore power to homes and businesses.

“We will give them our best to help them out. This is what we are all about,” said Michael O. Barnes, a foreman leading Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation’s crews assisting in North Carolina. Black Warrior Electric is an electric co-op that serves residents of 12 counties in west central Alabama and a member of AREA.

After helping in the initial stage of the relief effort, the 1,200-person team from Alabama Power has already begun making its way back to Alabama.

Crews from PowerSouth and Electric Cities of Alabama are on stand-by to relieve other groups or provide extra help, if needed.

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“Our members are dedicated to assisting others during times like this and stand ready to
offer their expertise. Alabamians are known for our generosity and willingness to help, and this is a prime example of their willingness to help others,” said Seth Hammett, chairman of the Energy Institute of Alabama.

The EIA is the state’s only association whose members are dedicated to providing reliable, affordable and clean energy for its end users. To learn more about EIA, visit www.energyinstituteal.org.

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House passes Brooks bill designating Marshall as NASA’s rocket propulsion lead

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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