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Bipartisan NDAA passes the House

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report on a bipartisan 377 to 48 vote. Alabama Congress members Bradley Byrne, Terri Sewell, Mike Rogers, and Mo Brooks all supported the final version of the NDAA and released statements on passage of the legislation.

“This bipartisan bill is a huge win for our troops, national security, and Alabama. I applaud the conferees for removing House Democrats’ numerous unrelated “partisan wish list” add-ons that prevented me from supporting the previously-passed House NDAA,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said. “Providing for the common defense is one of our most important duties in Congress, and it was time the Democrats stopped playing political games with our troops.”

“From the men and women serving at Maxwell Air Force Base and at the 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery, to the shipbuilding industry in Mobile and the missile defense efforts in Huntsville, Alabama plays a major part in our national security,” Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) said. “I am proud to have represented our state in conference with my colleagues. We delivered a smart, bipartisan defense bill that improves campaign election security, makes good on our promises to military widows and authorizes funding to equip, supply and train U.S. troops and support military families at home and abroad.

Rep. Sewell was selected by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to represent House Democrats on the conference committee that drafted the compromise National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report.

The NDAA establishes the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the U.S. Air Force. This was a top priority for Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and President Donald J. Trump (R). Space Force is the first new branch of the military since 1947. It also recognizes space as a warfighting domain and authorizes the transfer of Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force.

“I was ecstatic that the project my friend Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and I have been working on for several years is finally becoming a reality,” Rogers said. “This is an important step for our national security. Our adversaries are moving quickly in space and this new service will allow us to quickly realign our resources and efforts towards countering them. I am also pleased we continued the 58-year streak of passing a NDAA to ensure our military is fully funded. This year’s NDAA includes many other significant policy provisions that are important not only to our national security, but also our brave men and women in uniform.”

Rogers is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and was a conferee on the report.

“The FY20 NDAA House-Senate compromise bill is vastly superior to the original House version opposed by a bipartisan Senate and the White House,” Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said. “This compromise NDAA enhances America’s national security by: authorizing $738 billion in defense funding; establishing the U.S. Space Force as a sixth Armed Service of the United States (which improves America’s ability to acquire, operate, and defend space-based assets); adequately authorizing funding for the development of all three legs of the nuclear triad; reversing efforts to eliminate funding for the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons; and, increasing funding for development of hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, and next-generation helicopters; to name a few.”

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Brooks said that, “The FY20 NDAA House-Senate compromise bill improves the quality of life of America’s servicemembers by: giving troops a 3.1% pay raise; phasing out the Widow’s Tax; addressing the military housing crisis and requiring the services to establish a Tenant Bill of Rights; and, doubling the reimbursement amount for state licensure expenses for military spouses, who face unique career challenges when they move across state lines and often must pay substantial sums to requalify for nearly identical licenses.”

“This NDAA enables us to rebuild military readiness, allows for continued counter drug enforcement at our border, preserves President Trump’s transgender troop ban, accelerates programs to counter Chinese and Russian aggression, and authorizes important bipartisan nuclear modernization programs,” Byrne added. “Importantly, this bill gives our troops a 3.1 percent pay raise, the largest increase in a decade, and repeals the widow’s tax, a goal I’ve worked towards for many years. It also establishes the Space Force, a priority of President Trump’s that is expected to bring high-paying jobs to Alabama. And I’m particularly pleased this bill maintains long-standing prohibitions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. since my efforts to preserve this ban were blocked earlier in the year.

The NDAA included several provisions that Sewell authored and including language to improve federal campaign election security. Specifically, the legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to work with the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make available an advisory report on foreign counter-intelligence and cybersecurity threats to election campaigns for federal offices. It require the DNI work jointly to publish a summary of best practices that federal campaigns can employ to counter such threats. In the event that Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis jointly determine that a federal election campaign is subject to a heightened foreign counterintelligence or cybersecurity threat, the provision would allow them to make available additional information to those campaigns to help thwart outside interference.

Sewell also authored authorization for increased intelligence funding for combatant commanders and our growing strategic competition with China, Russia and other malign actors as well as a continued commitment to promoting increased diversity within the Intelligence Community’s workforce.

“The original House-passed NDAA, that every Republican opposed, included a number of open-border provisions that would have undermined our efforts to secure the Southwest border,” Rogers said. “I’m pleased Democrats dropped their unreasonable demands that would have tied President Trump’s hands by limiting funding for the border wall and restricting the use of DoD assistance.”

Brooks said, “I am pleased by the success my office had in helping to successfully insert into the compromise NDAA the following provisions that are beneficial to America and Redstone Arsenal, including but not limited to: $38 million authorized for construction of an Aircraft and Flight Equipment Building on Redstone Arsenal; $40 million authorized for construction of a new air traffic control tower and airport terminal on Kwajalein Atoll; additional $161.6 million authorized for the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (located on Redstone Arsenal) for hypersonic weapons development; additional $108 million authorized for the development of the Missile Defense Agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor layer to detect and track hypersonic threats; additional $2.5 million authorized to develop next generation small satellites; additional $7 million authorized for new hypersonic weapons testing facilities; fully reverses the House Democrats’ $50 million authorization cut to the Army Future Command’s Assured Position, Navigation, and Timing Cross-functional Team’s efforts to develop their Low Earth Orbit space architecture; and, additional $75 million authorized to develop Future Vertical Lift platforms.”

“With this bill’s passage, we can continue President Trump’s mission to rebuild our military might and arm our fighting men and women with the resources they need to combat threats around the globe,” Byrne said. “The NDAA contains many important benefits to Alabama: Authorizes one Guided Missile Frigate FFG(X) contract which Austal will compete to build in Mobile, including language secured by Byrne reiterating and instructing that cost is a critical factor in the competition. Supports the conversion of Expeditionary Fast Transport ships into medical ships at Austal’s Mobile shipbuilding facility. Authorizes $12 million for a new Army National Guard Readiness Center in Foley. Authorizes $249.2 million for Stryker Combat Vehicle Lethality Upgrades to take place in Anniston. Supports missile defense programs in Huntsville and Troy as well as cyber and hypersonic weapons advancements. Authorizes $34 million for the Enlisted Transient Training Barracks at Fort McClellan Army National Guard Training Center in Anniston. Authorizes $151.6 million for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Helicopter Modernization Program and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft that Bell Helicopter will compete to build in Ozark.”

“Perhaps as important as what’s in the House-Senate NDAA is what is not in the bill”, Brooks said. “The bill does not cut border security funding. To be blunt, more Americans have died as a result of America’s porous southern border than have been killed in any American military conflict, with the possible exceptions of World War II and the Civil War. Border security is national security. I’m pleased the House-Senate compromise NDAA doesn’t hinder President Trump’s ability to secure America’s southern border and save American lives.”

The bipartisan, bicameral conference report authorizes $738 billion for defense spending for FY 2020.

With House passage, the NDAA conference report now awaits a final Senate vote before going to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks releases road map for completing defense appropriations bill despite coronavirus crisis

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, on Wednesday released the House Armed Services Committee road map for completing the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“National defense is the #1 priority of the federal government. Despite the once-in-a-century COVID-19 pandemic, the House Armed Services Committee stands fully committed to passing the annual National Defense Authorization Act,” Brooks said. “The NDAA has passed Congress 59 consecutive years. I will work to ensure FY 2021 is no different. I thank Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry for their leadership and commitment to passing the FY21 NDAA in the face of COVID-19 challenges. While the process will be different, I am confident the final House Armed Services Committee product will be no less effective at securing America.”

Committee Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry’s attached the March 31, 2020 letter providing HASC’s plan to have the NDAA ready for committee debate by May 1st.

The letter was addressed to Members of the Committee on Armed Services, including Brooks.

“We want to update HASC members and staff on plans for our committee during the month of April, given the nationwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith and Thornberry wrote. “One challenge is deciding how to handle meetings of the committee and subcommittees since all such meetings for April will have to be held by conference call or video conference.”

“We must continue to exercise our oversight responsibilities and prepare to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) out of committee and off the House floor,” the letter continued. “Our goal is to have the bill ready to go by May 1st, and we will schedule the date of the mark up once the House schedule for the next few months becomes clear.”

“First, we want you all to understand that because of House rules we cannot hold public hearings or classified briefings in the formal sense like in normal circumstances,” they explained. “We will have to do what can best be called, informal events.”

“Public hearings are required to be open to the public,” the leaders of the HASC committee wrote. “They also require a quorum, involving the physical presence of members. Neither of these things are possible to achieve in conference calls or video conferences. Obviously, we also cannot have classified briefings over the phone or on video. There is no way to set up secure connections amongst the number of people that would have to be involved.”

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“Informal events, therefore, would take the form of the full committee or the subcommittees doing video or phone conferences and linking up the necessary members, staff, and witnesses,” the letter continued. “We have one such informal event, set for April 1st with Department of Defense officials to discuss their response to the pandemic. This will be a conference call.”

“We believe that future informal events like this for the month of April make sense, and welcome any suggestions from members on appropriate topics and witnesses,” Smith and Thornberry continued. “But, we hope members will keep in mind some of the responsibilities that will need to be balanced in deciding when to pull together such informal events. We face three significant limitations during the month of April when it comes to setting up these informal events. First, HASC staff and members, as they always are in the month leading up to finalizing full and subcommittee marks, are spending an enormous amount of time doing the work necessary to get the mark done. In fact, we did not plan on having a significant number of public hearings or briefings in April even before the shutdown happened due to this staff workload. Second, these are not normal times. As we’re sure all of you have been doing, we and the HASC staff and everyone at the Department have been fully engaged on managing the pandemic crisis. It is a complex problem and the Department plays a crucial role. We are all working countless angles to address the crisis and that crucial work must be given priority. Finally, efforts to prevent the spread of the virus among Department personnel and others will without question limit the ability of the Department and other witnesses to be available at times in the coming month.”

Smith and Thornberry wrote that these informal events are needed for to get the bill done, while exercising the necessary oversight of the Department.

The informal events are meant to substitute for normal public hearings and briefings and are not the only or even the main thing that the committee is doing.

Social distancing and the prohibition on meeting with more than ten present has made it difficult for Congress to fulfill many of its duties.

Congressman Mo Brooks is serving in his fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks recently won the Republican primary. Since he has no Democratic opponent this means that Brooks has been effectively re-elected to his sixth term in Congress.

 

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Blue Origin opens rocket engine factory in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Blue Origin has opened its sprawling factory in Huntsville, Alabama’s “Rocket City.”

The massive new factory will allow the spaceflight company to accelerate the production of its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine. The move creates hundreds of jobs.

The BE-4, which is under development, will power both Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket and the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which is being produced at ULA’s factory in nearby Decatur.

Huntsville was an ideal location for the new factory, not only for its highly skilled workforce; but also for its proximity to ULA’s assembly pant and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where the new Alabama-built engine will be tested. Marshall’s historic test stand 4670 is where the Saturn V moon rocket’s engines were tested.

Blue Origin is upgrading and refurbishing the test stand.

“This community is absolutely terrific to be a part of,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said. “It has the kind of spirit that you want when developing this kind of technology and actually has the history that you can be feel proud about.”

“Enjoyed speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Blue Origin’s new rocket engine production facility in Cummings Research Park,” Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said. “This top-notch facility will be used to conduct production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. I joined Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several others this afternoon to discuss the impact Blue Origin is making in the Tennessee Valley!”

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Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield was at the ceremony making the opening of the spaceflight company’s rocket engine factory.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “In addition to the economic boost resulting from hundreds of new jobs in north Alabama, the Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine production facility will allow the United States – the state of Alabama – to take astronauts once again into space without dependence on other nations. Methods of warfare have changed, and maintaining our dominance in the current space race is therefore a critical element in national security.”

Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin’s 350,000-square-foot facility is located in Cummings Research Park and will employ more than 300 people. Smith said that around 200 jobs should be created over the next year.

The factory was a $200 million investment in the state and announced on June 2017, with construction beginning in Huntsville a little over a year ago.

 

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Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of S.J.Res.68, a resolution which directs the removal of United States military from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. Jones has been criticized by Republicans for voting to limit President Donald J. Trump’s war powers on Iran.

“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. released a statement in response.

“Senator Jones once again turned his back on Alabama and voted as the leftwing Democrats commanded. He has no regard for the values, opinions or views of Alabamians,” Hooper said. “He sees us as deplorables just like the elites of the Democratic party who have funded 80 percent of his doomed campaign for re-election.:

Hooper stated, “I whole heartily support the President who stated ‘We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness… If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.’”

“The Commander-in-chief must be free to work with his staff and his military leaders to conduct covert operations like the one that eliminated Iran’s terrorist-in-chief General Soleimani,” Hooper added. “You can’t micromanage the war on terrorism. The Democrats in Congress are so filled with Trump Derangement Syndrome that no matter how much it would benefit our country and the world; they would never give Trump a “victory”. If it came down to it, they would leak everything to the media no matter what the consequences.”

Senator Jones is a cosponsor of the legislation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Eight moderate Republicans voted with the Democrats on the resolution.

Senator Jones has also been criticized by Republicans for his comments that he was “appalled” by Pres. Trump’s actions following his acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment.

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“Newsflash for Senator Doug Jones: Most Alabamians have been appalled by his actions his entire time in office,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “It’s about time we send Doug home, and replace him with someone who understands our values. Alabamians deserve a Senator they can be proud of again.”

Sessions is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Jones’ Senate seat.

The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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Brooks announces that Alabama rocket launches NASA Solar Orbiter

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced that an Alabama built Atlas V rocket has launched the Solar Orbiter.

“Big news! Last night, NASA’s Solar Orbiter was successfully launched atop United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket,” Rep. Brooks said. “The Atlas V is built at ULA’s Decatur manufacturing facility and last night’s launch was ULA’s 135th consecutive successful mission. This mission jumpstarted a decade-long expedition to study the sun that will deliver never-before-seen views of the sun and provide new information on space weather. Congratulations to NASA and ULA on a successful start to an important mission.”

The Solar Orbiter is a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun. It was launched at 10:03 p.m. CST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany have received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed.

In the first two days after launch, Solar Orbiter will deploy its instrument boom and several antennas that will communicate with Earth and gather scientific data. Solar Orbiter is on a unique trajectory that will allow its comprehensive set of instruments to provide humanity with the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles. This trajectory includes 22 close approaches to the Sun, bringing the spacecraft within the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun and its influence on space.

“As humans, we have always been familiar with the importance of the Sun to life on Earth, observing it and investigating how it works in detail, but we have also long known it has the potential to disrupt everyday life should we be in the firing line of a powerful solar storm,” said ESA Science Director Günther Hasinger. “By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more about the hidden force responsible for the Sun’s changing behavior and its influence on our home planet than ever before.”

Solar Orbiter combines two main modes of study. In-situ instruments will measure the environment around the spacecraft, detecting such things as electric and magnetic fields and passing particles and waves. The remote-sensing instruments will image the Sun from afar, along with its atmosphere and its outflow of material, collecting data that will help scientists understand the Sun’s inner workings.

“Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “Together with our European partners, we’re entering a new era of heliophysics that will transform the study of the Sun and help make astronauts safer as they travel on Artemis program missions to the Moon.”

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Congressman Mo Brooks is serving in his Fifth term representing Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is an outspoken proponent of the space program. NASA and its contractors, including ULA, are major employers in North Alabama.

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