U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Wednesday, spoke to a luncheon meeting that was part of the annual Space & Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville.
“It is really stunning what Alabama contributes to this nation’s national security,” Jones said. “I am really proud of where we are in our nation’s security.”
“We need to make sure that we do in Congress to give you what you need,” Jones said.
“We passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of $750 billion,” Jones said. “The NDAA was passed through the work of Senator Jack Reed and Jim Inhofe, who conducted that we got $750 billion in a bipartisan way.”
Jones serves on the U.S. Senate’s Armed Forces Committee.
“I know how important Armed Services is,” Jones said. “We have got a Senator on Appropriations, I think you know him.”
“Those kids are just amazing,” Jones said of troops from Alabama that he met in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, is the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“As Jones said, we traveled through Afghanistan and Iraq together to meet the young men and women serving in our armed forces there,” Reed said. “What we do here in Huntsville is about giving those young men and women what they need to win on the battlefield.”
“The budget control act was threatening to put us back in sequestration,” Reed said. “The Budget Control Act allows us to have predictability. We have raised the Defense budget $20 billion above the proposed cap to $738 billion at least for the next two years,” Reed said. “Getting the Appropriation bill passed before we go into a C.R. or a long term C.R. is the goal when we get back in September.”
“Huntsville is more important than it is ever been,” Reed said. “It is critical to the security of the United States.”
Reed said that upgrading the nuclear triad, increasing our ability to fight in space, and missile defense are the key goals of the national defense strategy.
“Put those three together, and you get one thing: Huntsville,” Reed said.
“In 2010, we determined that we needed to modernize the nuclear triad: the bombers, the missiles and the ballistic missile submarines,” Reed said. “This will be the third time that we have had to modernize. The first time was in the sixties and the second time was in the eighties.”
“Our nuclear deterrent is absolutely critical,” Reed said. “Russia is modernizing its nuclear triad and China is launching ballistic missile submarines.”
“The last B52 was produced in 1962,” Reed said. “When it retires in 2040, it will be 80 years old. The pilots will be the great grandchildren of the original generation of pilots. The B21 is its replacement.”
Reed said that the Columbia class is the next generation of ballistic missile submarine. “Our current ballistic missile submarines are 40 years old. It is absolutely necessary to replace these ships they are wearing out.”
“We need new ICBMs,” Reed said. “People say, but that you never use them. The success of these weapons is that we have never had to use them. Everything hinges on our nuclear deterrent.”
“It is going to be complicated, and it is expensive,” Reed told the audience of military officers, scientists, engineers, and defense contractors. “We are going to turn to Huntsville more and more to get this done.”
“We have to have war-fighting ability in space,” Reed said. “In the 1960s space was a benign thing. Now we have to recognize that space is not just something is up there for military purposes; but your smart phones, weather forecasting, depends on space. Our economy could be fundamentally undermined if those satellites were attacked.”
“There are some differences in the House and Senate versions of the Space Force,” Reed said. “I am confident that we will have a Space Command by this time next year.”
Reed said that we need space based sensors. “Hypersonics are changing the game every day. We have to be able to identify these new systems, particularly from space, track these new systems and destroy these new systems, and we increasingly are looking to Huntsville for solutions.”
Reed said that quantum computing is a game-changer.
“We need to figure that out before our enemies do.” Reed said. “We need to make sure that we have the workforce needed to work on and develop the technologies that we need going forward. To do that we need and education system that produces graduates with STEM ability and we have to make sure that we get the best talent from all over the world.”
NDIA David Hatchett announced that retired Lt. General Joe Cosumano is the 2019 winner of the Medaris Award. The Medaris Award was established in 1981 to recognize a resident of the Tennessee Valley who has made an outstanding contribution to the National Security of the United States.
“What a humbling experience for me and my family,” Cosumano said, who held numerous commands including the Patriot Battalions in Desert Storm and the Future Warfare Center.
“I learned about this concept called ‘lead up.’ The NCOs led me up in all those years in the military,” Cosumano said. “People, organization, mission and resources.”
In 1955, Major General John Medaris was made the first commanding general of Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.
Over 530 attended Wednesday’s luncheon. The luncheon was sponsored by Radiance Technologies. Boeing was the sponsor of the Symposium.
Lilly Ledbetter speaks about her friendship with Ginsburg
When anti-pay-discrimination icon and activist Lilly Ledbetter started receiving mail from late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ledbetter’s attorney told her to save the envelopes. That’s how unusual it is to get personal mail from a member of the nation’s highest court.
Ledbetter, 82, of Jacksonville, Alabama, shared her memories of her contact with Ginsburg over the last decade during a Facebook live event hosted by Sen. Doug Jones on Monday.
Ginsburg famously read her dissent from the bench, a rare occurrence, in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in 2007. The court ruled 5-4 to affirm a lower court’s decision that Ledbetter was not owed damages for pay discrimination because her suit was not filed within 180 days of the setting of the policy that led to her paychecks being less than those of her male colleagues.
Ledbetter said that Ginsburg “gave me the dignity” of publicly affirming the righteousness of Ledbetter’s case, demonstrating an attention to the details of the suit.
Ginsburg challenged Congress to take action to prevent similar plaintiffs from being denied compensation due to a statute of limitations that can run out before an employee discovers they are being discriminated against.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by President Barack Obama. It resets the statute of limitation’s clock with each paycheck that is reduced by a discriminatory policy.
Ledbetter said that her heart was heavy when she learned of Ginsburg’s death on Friday. The women kept in touch after they met in 2010. That was shortly after the death of Ginsburg’s husband, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg. She spoke about her pain to Ledbetter, whose husband Charles had died two years before.
“So we both shared that, and we shared a tear,” said Ledbetter.
Ginsburg invited her to her Supreme Court chambers to see a framed copy of the act, next to which hung a pen that Obama used to sign it.
Ginsburg later sent Ledbetter a signed copy of a cookbook honoring her husband that was published by the Supreme Court Historical Society. Included with it was a personal note, as was the case with other pieces of correspondence from the justice that Ledbetter received at her home in Alabama. They were often brochures and other written materials that Ginsburg received that featured photos of both women.
Ledbetter expressed her support for Jones in his race against GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville. The filling of Ginsburg’s seat is a major factor in that, she said.
“I do have to talk from my heart, because I am scared to death for the few years that I have yet to live because this country is not headed in the right direction,” she said.
She noted that Ginsburg was 60 when she was appointed to the court. Ledbetter said that she opposes any nominee who is younger than 55 because they would not have the experience and breadth of legal knowledge required to properly serve on the Supreme Court.
She said that issues like hers have long-term consequences that are made even more evident by the financial strains resulting from the pandemic, as she would have more retirement savings had she been paid what her male colleagues were.
Jones called Ledbetter a friend and hero of his.
“I’ve been saying to folks lately, if those folks at Goodyear had only done the right thing by Lilly Ledbetter and the women that worked there, maybe they’d still be operating in Gadsden these days,” he said.
Census report: Number of uninsured in U.S. increased in 2019
The number of uninsured in America rose in pre-COVID-19 pandemic 2019, for the third straight year, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week.
The bureau’s “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2019” report notes that while the median household income in 2019, increased 6.8 percent from the prior year, and the poverty rate fell by 1.3 percentage points during that time, the uninsured rate in the U.S. increased by 0.3 percent from 2018 to 2019, and the number of children without insurance in the U.S. increased by about 320,000 during that time.
The only state to have increased the number of insured residents between 2018 and 2019, was Virginia, which effective Jan. 1 2019, had expanded Medicaid in the state under the Affordable Care Act.
The report notes that while the percent of uninsured in Alabama fell from 10 percent in 2018, to 9.7 percent in 2019, the rate of uninsured in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, which includes Alabama, was twice as high as rates in states that had expanded the federal program.
“The devil is in the details, and the details reveal Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid has caused more poverty, hardship and uninsurance,” said Jane Adams, campaign director of the Cover Alabama Coalition, in a statement. “It’s shameful that Alabama has such a high uninsurance rate. It does not have to be this way. Governor Ivey could expand Medicaid today and provide an estimated 340,000 Alabamians with access to health insurance.”
The Cover Alabama Coalition is a group of more than 60 advocacy organizations that formed in April to urge Gov. Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid. Alabama is one of 14 states that hasn’t expanded the program.
Children living in the South were more likely to be uninsured than children living in other regions, Cover Alabama Coalition noted in a press release on the bureau’s recent report. Nearly eight percent of children in the South are uninsured, while just three percent of children in the Northeast lack health insurance, according to the report.
“Due to COVID-19, the United States has endured the deepest recession since the Great Depression, fundamentally changing the country’s economic landscape,” the coalition noted in the release. “The economic fallout from COVID-19 will result in more poverty, uninsurance and debt. Medicaid expansion would help by generating nearly $3 billion a year in new economic activity throughout the state and creating an additional 30,000 jobs.”
Approximately 64 percent of Alabamians polled said they support expanding Medicaid in Alabama, including 52 percent of Republicans asked, according to a recent Auburn University at Montgomery poll.
While the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data showed some gains from the previous year, the COVID-19 pandemic that came afterward had a clear impact on poverty and the number of uninsured.
A study in July by Families USA, a Washington D.C.-based nonpartisan health care consumer advocacy nonprofit, found that 5.4 million workers lost health insurance in the U.S. between February and May of this year. The increase in uninsured was 39 percent higher than in any other annual increase on record.
A separate study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in July estimates that in the last three quarters of this year, 10.1 million in the U.S. will lose their employer-sponsored health care.
Rogers disappointed Democrats have not offered a Homeland Security reauthorization
Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, wrote an editorial in the Washington Examiner saying that he is disappointed but not surprised that Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package for the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s been over 1,100 days since the last Department of Homeland Security authorization bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Rogers said. “And as we approach the end of the 116th Congress, the chances grow thin of the majority introducing legislation to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the resources and authorities it needs to stop the growing threats to our homeland.”
“I wish I could say I’m surprised Democrats have yet to offer a reauthorization package,” Rogers wrote. “However, this is the party that started out this Congress with calls to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Rogers slammed House Democrats for what he claimed is a trend of becoming increasingly anti-law enforcement and ignoring “violent mobs” that have been rioting in many major cities.
“This is the party that last year called the unprecedented migrant surge at the Southwest border a ‘Fake Emergency,’ and took half a year to vote on critical humanitarian funding to address the crisis,” Rogers said. “This is the party that turned a blind eye as violent mobs took over cities across our country. It’s reached the point that now some on the left are calling for the abolition of DHS and the defunding of our police.”
Rogers said that while Democrats have done nothing, House Republicans have introduced a two-year reauthorization bill in The Keep America Secure Act.
Rogers said that The Keep America Secure Act will provide DHS with the resources and authorities that the department needs to stay ahead of evolving threats and position DHS to be successful on new battlegrounds.
Rogers is the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee
Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. He is seeking his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in this Nov. 3’s general election. Adia Winfrey is the Democratic challenger.
Alabama has fourth highest rate of coronavirus cases
Alabama has the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, trailing only fellow Southern states Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.
Alabama has the fourth-highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, trailing only fellow Southern states Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.
Alabama has so far recorded at least 29,896 cases per million people, which amounts to 2.9 percent, nearly 3 percent, of the people in Alabama.
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday reported that 818 more Alabamians have tested positive for the coronavirus. This takes our state up to 145,780 diagnosed cases. At least 61,232 Alabamians have recovered from the virus.
But 82,109 Alabamians have active coronavirus cases. This is the ninth-highest raw total in the nation, trailing only Florida, California, Georgia, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri and Texas — all states with higher populations than Alabama.
Alabama’s high rate of infection is not due to the state doing more testing. ADPH announced 5,500 more tests on Monday, taking the state up to 1,059,517 total tests.
Alabama is 40th in the nation in coronavirus testing.
Tests as a percentage of the state’s population is just 22.8 percent. Louisiana on the other hand has 47 percent — the fifth highest rate of testing in the nation. Even Mississippi, at 26.4 percent, is testing at a higher rate than Alabama and are 29th in testing. Florida is 37th.
On Monday, ADPH reported two more Alabamians have died from COVID-19, taking the state death toll to 2,439. Alabama is 21st in death rate from COVID-19 at almost .05 percent.
New Jersey has had the highest COVID-19 death rate at .18 percent of the population. At least 257 Alabamians have died in September, though, to this point, September deaths are trailing both August and July deaths. At least 602 Alabamians died from COVID-19 in August.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 are also down. 780 Alabamians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, down to levels not seen since before the July 4 holiday. At least 1,613 Alabamians were in the hospital suffering from COVID-19 on Aug. 6.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s July 15 mask order is being credited with decreasing the number of coronavirus cases in the state, which had soared to a seven-day average of 1,921 cases per day on July 19. The current seven-day average is 780 cases per day but is little changed in the last ten days.
The mask order expires next month, but most observers expect the mask order to be continued into November.
High school football and the Labor Day holiday weekend did not lead to a surge in cases; however, public health authorities remain concerned that colder weather and the return of flu season could lead to another surge in cases.
President Donald Trump has expressed optimism that a coronavirus vaccine could be commercially available this fall. A number of public health officials, including the CDC director, have expressed skepticism of that optimistic appraisal.
At least 969,611 people have died from COVID-19 globally, including 204,506 Americans.