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”

Trump makes new moon landing official U.S. policy

Americans will head back to the moon under a new directive issued Monday by President Donald Trump as he takes another step toward re-energizing the nation’s space program.

The presidential directive, coming on the heels of a new White House space council headed by Vice President Mike Pence, instructs NASA to partner with commercial entities and international partners to return astronauts to the moon as a stepping stone for deeper space exploration to Mars and beyond.

“This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond,” Trump said in a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

Space enthusiasts and industry leaders applauded as a way to expand crewed space missions the call for cooperation between the space agency and other government agencies and the growing Continue reading “Trump makes new moon landing official U.S. policy”

Court requires Pentagon to accept transgender recruits Jan. 1

A federal judge on Monday denied the Justice Department’s request to delay a Jan. 1 deadline to accept transgender military recruits — the latest action to stall President Donald Trump’s proposed ban.

The order from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia came after the Trump administration sought an emergency stay last week. The Pentagon had originally set the Jan. 1 deadline before Trump declared a ban on all transgender military personnel earlier this year.

The Pentagon sought the delay as it studies how to implement the president’s wishes. But the court wasn’t convinced the matter is so urgent.

"The Court notes that Defendants’ portrayal of their situation as an emergency is belied by their litigation tactics. The Court issued its preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to comply with the January 1, 2018 deadline on October 30, 201," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her opinion. "Defendants Continue reading “Court requires Pentagon to accept transgender recruits Jan. 1”

Trump administration seeks to delay order to accept transgender recruits

The Trump administration has asked a federal court for an emergency stay to delay a court order to begin opening the military to transgender recruits by Jan. 1.

The move is the latest development in a complicated legal battle over President Donald Trump’s order earlier this year that transgender personnel be banned from the ranks — a policy the Pentagon is currently studying how best to carry out.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this year ordered the government to halt the administration’s ban on transgender troops while a series of legal challenges unfolded.

Specifically, the court ruled that the Pentagon had to return to the Obama-era policy allowing transgender recruits, in addition to those personnel already serving.

It was one of two federal courts to temporarily halt the ban.

Under the new Obama policy, transgender recruits were originally set to be able to join Continue reading “Trump administration seeks to delay order to accept transgender recruits”

Failure to share criminal data rampant, Pentagon finds

The military justice system’s failure to share critical information with civilian law enforcement agencies is far more rampant than initially believed, the Pentagon’s independent watchdog has found — in some cases nearly a third of the time.

After former airman Devin Patrick Kelley shot and killed 26 people in a rural Texas church last month, the Air Force admitted it had not followed the procedure to alert civilian authorities to Kelley’s domestic violence conviction while in uniform — something that would have prevented him from being able to buy a gun.

It subsequently found dozens of other such cases.

But the problem is far more widespread, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported Tuesday. It found a series of "troubling" things when it reviewed 2,502 cases across all four military branches between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016.

Of those, fingerprint cards were not submitted to the FBI in 24 percent Continue reading “Failure to share criminal data rampant, Pentagon finds”

Air Force failed to report dozens of criminals to federal database

An Air Force review has identified several dozen instances in which it failed to share convictions of service members with a federal database used to help prevent criminals from purchasing firearms, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The service launched the review after Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman who killed 26 people at a rural Texas church earlier this month, was able to buy a firearm despite being convicted of domestic violence while serving in the Air Force.

The service admitted shortly after the shooting that its process to alert civilian authorities about crimes committed in uniform had failed in the Kelley case at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

But the review of 60,000 cases dating back to 2002 has also revealed “several dozen” examples where the Air Force made the same mistake, according to spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.

The Kelley case "was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses Continue reading “Air Force failed to report dozens of criminals to federal database”

Senators: Should Trump have sole nuclear launch authority?

Senators considered Tuesday for the first time in more than 40 years whether the president should continue to have the sole authority to launch a nuclear attack — a question that comes amid increasingly saber-rattling rhetoric between Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

“We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”

Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear Continue reading “Senators: Should Trump have sole nuclear launch authority?”

What Trump is missing by skipping the DMZ

Lawmakers who have visited the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone between North and South Korea say President Donald Trump should make the trek as well — and that it would teach him a lot about the real-life consequences of "fire and fury."

The DMZ isn’t on the itinerary for Trump’s 13-day Asia trip, which will take him to South Korea on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Instead, he’s scheduled to visit U.S. troops at an Army garrison south of Seoul.) But Americans who have been to the border say it would offer him a “surreal” and “eerie” experience, in a territory where North Korean soldiers watch visitors’ every move and a major Westernized city lies an easy bus ride away.

“North Korean soldiers come running down and they’re filming you,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who visited the demilitarized zone during the spring. “They were right up next to Continue reading “What Trump is missing by skipping the DMZ”