Pence announces first steps to establish Space Force by 2020

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced the first steps in the Trump administration’s bid to establish a standalone military Space Force by 2020, including creating an elite group of space troops in the same vein as current special operations forces.

Pence, in an appearance at the Pentagon, cited threats posed by adversaries like Russia and China, which are both developing anti-satellite weapons, lasers and hypersonic missiles that could threaten American reliance on space systems.

“As their actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from this challenge," Pence said during a speech at the Pentagon. "America will always seek peace in space as on the earth, but history proves that peace only comes through strength and in the realm of outer space the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead."

Pence Continue reading “Pence announces first steps to establish Space Force by 2020”

Trump to sign directive on managing traffic, debris in space

President Donald Trump is set to sign a space policy directive Monday to make it easier for commercial companies to operate in space and mitigate the creation of more trash in orbit.

Space Policy Directive-3 “seeks to address the challenges of a congested space environment,” said Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council.

The document directs several federal agencies to act, including the Defense Department, which will continue to maintain an authoritative catalog of objects in space, and the Commerce Department, which will release information from that catalog to the public and help companies avoid collisions between assets in space.

It also asks NASA to establish new guidelines to avoid the creation of new orbital debris and the State Department to work with international partners to put in place their own similar guidelines, as well as a space object registry.

Trump plans to chair a meeting of the Continue reading “Trump to sign directive on managing traffic, debris in space”

Pentagon investigates White House doctor Ronny Jackson

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating President Donald Trump’s former personal physician, who was accused of unprofessional behavior while being considered to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the Defense Department’s inspector general, said in a statement Monday the watchdog has “initiated an investigation into allegations” against Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, who was forced to withdraw his nomination to be the secretary of Veterans Affairs in April amid allegations of drinking on the job and improperly prescribing medication.

Trump tapped Jackson to replace former VA Secretary David Shulkin in a move that surprised many and before the White House had a chance to do the typical vetting for a Cabinet post.

During the confirmation process, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) brought to light several allegations against Jackson, including crashing a government car after drinking, giving out sleeping pills without a prescription and being drunk on Continue reading “Pentagon investigates White House doctor Ronny Jackson”

Majority Leader McCarthy defends Trump tariffs

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday defended the administration for leveraging tariffs on close allies as “standing up” for free trade.

“We are in the middle of a trade discussion. Nobody wants to be in a trade war. Nobody wins a trade war,” the California Republican said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But we are standing up for the process of where we’re moving forward that we have fair trade.”

President Donald Trump last week announced tariffs on metal imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, prompting each to announce they are considering retaliatory tariffs. Other Republicans have attacked the tariffs, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who tweeted that he was looking for “ways to push back on the president using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging to our country and our allies.”

McCarthy pointed to specifics in the trade Continue reading “Majority Leader McCarthy defends Trump tariffs”

Kudlow insists trade talks have not ‘broken down’

The president’s top economic adviser insisted on Sunday that trade talks with allies have not completely broken down, despite last week’s implementation of tariffs and threats of even more.

“Good faith negotiations are welcome and we hope to continue there, so I don’t think things are broken down,” Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday.”

President Donald Trump last week announced he was imposing metal tariffs against Mexico, Canada and the European Union. The allies announced their own plans to retaliate with tariffs on American goods. “The fact that the president has moved forward with these tariffs is not just going to hurt Canadian jobs. It’s going to hurt U.S. jobs as well,“ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Despite that, Kudlow repeatedly classified the dispute as a family squabble.

“I don’t think our tariffs are anything to do with our friendship Continue reading “Kudlow insists trade talks have not ‘broken down’”

Giuliani: Trump’s team “leaning toward” recommending he not talk with Mueller

The president’s legal team is “leaning toward not” recommending he participate in an interview with the team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Rudy Giuliani, a member of the team, said Sunday.

While the decision whether or not to testify before Robert Mueller’s team is ultimately up to President Donald Trump, Giuliani said the legal team will likely recommend that he not speak with investigators. Trump has said he wants to appear; his legal team has argued he can’t be compelled to testify.

“We’re leaning toward not. But look, if they can convince that it will be brief, it would be to the point, there were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that, we can get this long nightmare for the American public over,” Giuliani said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

If the president is subpoenaed to testify, Giuliani said he would Continue reading “Giuliani: Trump’s team “leaning toward” recommending he not talk with Mueller”

Lewandowski to Mueller: Avoid subpoenaing Trump by negotiating with White House

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager on Sunday urged Robert Mueller’s team to avoid subpoenaing the president by working with the White House to define a narrow scope of questions for the president.

Corey Lewandowski said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s team is negotiating to figure out what questions Trump would be asked about in a possible interview with the group investigating whether there was collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

“There’s a potential to avoid a subpoena entirely if the team can work together and determine that the questions that will be asked will be relevant to an investigation to prove once and for all there was no collusion,” Lewandowski said.

If Trump is subpoenaed by Mueller’s team, Lewandowski said the president’s legal team will fight it in court. But if the courts rule that Trump must comply, he said he doesn’t believe the president will defy Continue reading “Lewandowski to Mueller: Avoid subpoenaing Trump by negotiating with White House”

Trump’s space push needs cash to soar

President Donald Trump has set ambitious goals for a revived American space program, but he’ll need to follow through with dollars and hard decisions to make them reality.

Sending astronauts to Mars alone would cost an estimated $1 trillion over the next 25 years, according to the director of the Mars Institute, a research organization partially funded by NASA. But Trump has requested just $19.9 billion for NASA in his proposed budget for next year, and his nominee to head the agency is bogged down in a confirmation fight involving Earth-bound issues like same-sex marriage.

Still, supporters of the space effort credit the Trump administration with helping to add excitement and public-private cooperation to a bold strategy for exploration and economic development — on top of the investments that newer companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are making in the sector.

Space advocates are giving much of the credit Continue reading “Trump’s space push needs cash to soar”

Space war is coming — and the U.S. is not ready

War is coming to outer space, and the Pentagon warns it is not yet ready, following years of underinvesting while the military focused on a host of threats on Earth.

Russia and China are years ahead of the United States in developing the means to destroy or disable satellites that the U.S. military depends on for everything from gathering intelligence to guiding precision bombs, missiles and drones.

Now the Pentagon is trying to catch up — pouring billions more dollars into hardening its defenses against anti-satellite weapons, training troops to operate in the event their space lifeline is cut, and honing ways to retaliate against a new form of combat that experts warn could affect millions of people, cause untold collateral damage and spread to battlefields on Earth.

“We are now approaching a point where ‘Star Wars’ is not just a movie,” said Steve Isakowitz, CEO of The Aerospace Continue reading “Space war is coming — and the U.S. is not ready”

‘No medically valid reason’ to exclude transgender troops, AMA chides Mattis

There is “no medically valid reason” to exclude transgender people from serving in the military, the nation’s largest medical organization told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday in a letter.

The American Medical Association said the Pentagon’s recent evaluation of the requirements to accommodate transgender personnel “mischaracterized and rejected the wide body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care."

The letter from CEO James Madara, first obtained by POLITICO, also slams the suggestion that the cost of providing medical care to transgender troops should be a reason to keep them out of the military.

“The financial cost is negligible and a rounding error in the defense budget,” Madara writes. “It should not be used as a reason to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country. We should be honoring their service.”

A 2016 study conducted by the government-funded RAND Corporation estimated nearly 4,000 Continue reading “‘No medically valid reason’ to exclude transgender troops, AMA chides Mattis”

Mattis losing a close ally in Tillerson but also a weak partner

The loss of one his closest allies may give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a strengthened relationship with President Donald Trump.

Departing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been a frequent, like-minded confidant to the retired Marine general, who consulted with him several times a day as the two navigated the tumultuous Trump administration. But current and former government officials say the relationship did little good for Mattis, given the clear disdain that Trump and his inner circle have for Tillerson.

In Tillerson’s place, Trump has chosen CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who’s already developed a reputation as a powerful force.

“Director Pompeo gets in to see the president at least three times a week, sometimes more,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the internal dynamics. “It’s a much deeper and more productive relationship. … This opens opportunities for a more collaborative approach. Continue reading “Mattis losing a close ally in Tillerson but also a weak partner”

Trump’s military parade, minus the tanks, set for Veterans Day

President Donald Trump will get his much-anticipated military parade, but it will not include some of the biggest military hardware, according to a planning memo released late Friday by the Pentagon.

The event, which will take place Nov. 11, will include troops from different branches, highlight the growing role of women in the armed forces and have a “heavy air component” of modern and historic war planes, the memo says. Also participating will be veterans groups and the ceremonial Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

But it will not feature tanks rolling between the White House and Capitol to “minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the memo says.

"This parade will focus on the contributions of our veterans throughout the history of the U.S. military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom," adds the guidance from Defense Continue reading “Trump’s military parade, minus the tanks, set for Veterans Day”

Trump’s military parade, minus the tanks, set for Veterans Day

President Donald Trump will get his much-anticipated military parade, but it will not include some of the biggest military hardware, according to a planning memo released late Friday by the Pentagon.

The event, which will take place Nov. 11, will include troops from different branches, highlight the growing role of women in the armed forces and have a “heavy air component” of modern and historic war planes, the memo says. Also participating will be veterans groups and the ceremonial Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

But it will not feature tanks rolling between the White House and Capitol to “minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the memo says.

"This parade will focus on the contributions of our veterans throughout the history of the U.S. military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom," adds the guidance from Defense Continue reading “Trump’s military parade, minus the tanks, set for Veterans Day”

Mattis: ‘Dreamers’ in military will not be deported

Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and serve in the military will not be deported even if current legal protections expire, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced today.

Mattis told reporters he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen today to confirm that any so-called "Dreamers" on active duty or in the active reserves — as well as those who have signed papers to join but are waiting to go to boot camp — will not be subject to any kind of deportation.

Mattis’ promise of protection also extends to veterans who left the military with an honorable discharge.

“We would always stand by one of our people,” he said.

There are only two exceptions in which someone could be deported, Mattis noted: if he or she committed a serious felony, or if a federal judge signed a final order of deportation.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Continue reading “Mattis: ‘Dreamers’ in military will not be deported”

U.S. military strikes Syrian army

The U.S.-led coalition launched strikes against the forces allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday to defend American advisers and their rebel allies that were being threatened, U.S. Central Command announced.

The strikes, which were not described in detail, came after pro-regime troops attacked a headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces where the American-led coalition is assisting in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Daesh.

“The coalition remains committed to focusing on the defeat-Daesh mission in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and asserts its non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,” the statement said.

It’s not the first time the U.S. military has targeted pro-Assad forces in Syria in self-defense, even though its primary mission in the country is to defeat the Islamic State.

On May 18, it attacked pro-regime forces that continued approaching coalition troops despite warning shots and Russian Continue reading “U.S. military strikes Syrian army”

How the U.S. and North Korea could stumble into World War III

U.S. military officials increasingly worry that a mistake or miscommunication – even more than an intentional act of war – could start a nuclear conflict in Korea.

A North Korean provocation, a U.S. warning shot, malicious hackers or a simple accident could be the cause that starts a new war between two nations with a long history of tensions and suspicion.

"Miscalculation is now at a stage [that is] higher than probably any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis," former Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said days after President Donald Trump boasted on Twitter that his nuclear button is “a much bigger & more powerful one” than Kim Jong Un’s.

These are some of the potential scenarios that most worry former nuclear commanders, policymakers and experts on Korea.

‘A pure accident’

A common fear of escalation is rooted in the oft-violent history of the Korean standoff, which Continue reading “How the U.S. and North Korea could stumble into World War III”

ACLU will represent U.S. citizen detained in Iraq

An American citizen being held by the U.S. military in Iraq without charges wants to challenge his detention in court, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today.

The ACLU, which will represent the detainee in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, spoke with the American citizen on Wednesday after the court ruled late last month that the detainee had the right to speak with a lawyer.

“The Trump administration illegally denied an American his rights to access a lawyer and a court for nearly four months, but those efforts have finally failed,” said ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz. “Now that our client has secured the judicial review that the government attempted to block, he looks forward to establishing the illegality of his detention.”

The U.S. military has been holding the citizen in Iraq since mid-September for allegedly fighting on behalf of the Islamic State, Continue reading “ACLU will represent U.S. citizen detained in Iraq”

Mattis: No plans to pause military exercises for Olympics in South Korea

The U.S. doesn’t plan to pause military exercises near the Korean Peninsula during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Friday.

Pyeongchang will host the Olympics in February amid heightened tensions with North Korea, drawing international concern about safety at the games.

U.S. military exercises in the region often provoke North Korea, whose leaders see them as preparations for an invasion, despite the U.S. saying the regularly planned training exercises seek only to increase readiness. Earlier this month, North Korean state-run media said a joint exercise between the U.S. and South Korea was pushing the country “to the brink of nuclear war.”

South Korea is reportedly considering scrapping an exercise planned for the spring to lessen the chance of conflict at the Olympics. But Mattis said the U.S. will not change its exercise schedule because of diplomatic concerns, while leaving Continue reading “Mattis: No plans to pause military exercises for Olympics in South Korea”

Next battleground for Trump transgender ban: Recruiting stations

When Conner Callahan first tried to join the military he encountered widespread confusion among recruiters who didn’t know how to process a transgender volunteer.

“No one seemed to know what to tell me or what was happening,” recalled Callahan, a 29-year-old public safety officer in North Carolina. “I reached out to every branch, talked to different recruiters, and I heard everything from, ‘You can’t join,’ to ‘Maybe, we’ll have to see.’”

That was before President Donald Trump declared last summer he was barring all transgender personnel and issued orders to overturn the Obama-era decision allowing them to serve openly and the Pentagon to begin taking in new recruits in 2017.

But when Callahan tries again after New Year’s he should get a much different reception. The Pentagon is now under a court order to begin accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1. The deadline poses the biggest test yet for Continue reading “Next battleground for Trump transgender ban: Recruiting stations”

Next battleground for Trump transgender ban: Recruiting stations

When Conner Callahan first tried to join the military he encountered widespread confusion among recruiters who didn’t know how to process a transgender volunteer.

“No one seemed to know what to tell me or what was happening,” recalled Callahan, a 29-year-old public safety officer in North Carolina. “I reached out to every branch, talked to different recruiters, and I heard everything from, ‘You can’t join,’ to ‘Maybe, we’ll have to see.’”

That was before President Donald Trump declared last summer he was barring all transgender personnel and issued orders to overturn the Obama-era decision allowing them to serve openly and the Pentagon to begin taking in new recruits in 2017.

But when Callahan tries again after New Year’s he should get a much different reception. The Pentagon is now under a court order to begin accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1. The deadline poses the biggest test yet for Continue reading “Next battleground for Trump transgender ban: Recruiting stations”