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​Barbara Barrett testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 12, 2019, as part of her confirmation process to become Air Force secretary. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark.

​Senate Confirms Barrett as Next Air Force Secretary

The Senate on Oct. 16 voted 85-7 to confirm Barbara Barrett as the Air Force’s new secretary, about five months since the service’s last permanent secretary left the post. She will take over as the Air Force’s top civilian in the midst of a drastic rethinking of how space assets fit in with the rest of the military, and as the service figures out its place and its investments in the digital age—faced with aging aircraft, a pilot shortage, and an evolving relationship with the private sector. Barrett plans to divest her interests in more than a dozen companies and other entities within the next 90 days, including stock in defense giant Raytheon and Intel Corp. Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

In First, Airman Tapped as Pentagon’s Top Enlisted Service Member

For the first time, an airman will serve as the top enlisted service member in the Pentagon. CMSgt. Ramon “CZ” Colon-Lopez on Oct. 16 was named the next senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing the current SEAC, Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell. Colon-Lopez is currently the command senior enlisted leader for US Africa Command. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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USAF to Discuss Future Threats to Missions at November Summit

Air Force cross-functional teams are pulling together holistic looks at the climate, cyber, and other threats facing USAF missions and will discuss them with senior leaders at a summit in mid-November, a top service official said Oct. 16. The service is considering potential threats across the breadth of a mission, instead of taking a more typical base-by-base approach, John Henderson, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for installations, environment, and energy said at a joint hearing of two House Armed Services subcommittees. “They’re doing full threat assessments, for one, up to a very highly classified level,” Henderson said. “There is a large group of people working in a cross-functional way to address this holistically with the Air Force and we expect to bring this to our senior leaders here in about three weeks.” Read the full story by Rachel S. Cohen.

Trump: US Confident American Nuclear Bombs are Secure in Turkey

President Donald Trump on Oct. 16 said the US is “confident” in the safety of B61 nuclear weapons based at Incirlik AB, Turkey, as Ankara’s close relationship with the US falters and the Turks target previously American-backed Kurdish forces inside Syria. “We’re confident,” Trump said in the Oval Office, when asked about the safety of the weapons at Incirlik. “We have a great air base there, a very powerful air base there. … We’re supposed to get along with our NATO members.” Trump’s comments mark the first time a US president or other senior official has publicly confirmed the open secret that the nuclear bombs are stored at the base. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

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RADAR SWEEP


Fearing US Abandonment, Kurds Kept Back Channels Wide Open
When Syria’s Kurdish fighters, America’s longtime battlefield allies against the Islamic State, announced over the weekend that they were switching sides and joining up with Damascus and Moscow, it seemed like a moment of geopolitical whiplash. But in fact, the move had been in the works for more than a year. Associated Press

Space Command Sending Experts Worldwide as US Advantage Erodes, Top Officer Says
US Space Command will dispatch teams of experts to combatant commands worldwide with the aim of adding expertise in a domain where other nations are catching up to America’s capabilities, the general in charge of the Pentagon’s space mission said. “We are clearly the best in the world in space, but the advantage is eroding. Potential adversaries are moving fast,” said Air Force Gen. John Raymond during an Oct. 15 stop in Stuttgart, Germany, where he met with leaders at US European and Africa commands. Stars and Stripes (subscription required)

Dickinson Reorganizes Army Space Command as He Prepares Move to US SPACECOM
The US Army Space and Missile Defense Command is standing up a new brigade focused on satellite operations and is planning long-term investments in technology and training so it can better support the newly created U.S. Space Command, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, the SMDC commander, said Oct. 15. Space News

Air Force Wants Low-Altitude Flights over Nevada
The US Air Force wants to fly supersonic fighter jets at lower altitudes in lightly populated areas of southwestern Idaho, northern Nevada,and southeastern Oregon to better simulate combat conditions. The Air Force on Oct. 16 said it plans to prepare an environmental impact statement to study the idea and will hold meetings and take public comments through Nov. 25 to help shape the study. Associated Press via Las Vegas Sun

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report about Crash of B-17 at Bradley International Airport
One of the pilots operating the World War II-era B-17 bomber that crashed earlier this month at Bradley International Airport turned off the two engines on the right side of the plane as he tried to make an emergency landing, but a preliminary report into the crash released on Oct. 15 by the National Transportation Safety Board doesn’t give any reasons why he would have done so. Hartford Courant (subscription required)

DISA Wants a Pentagon-Wide Identity Management System
On Oct. 11, officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency announced it was looking to create a system that would let the Pentagon oversee the digital credentials and online activity of the people who use its IT infrastructure. The tech, called the Enterprise Identity Service, would store the usernames and passwords for employees, vendors, and other authorized users in a single record, which they could then use to access the networks and platforms they need for their jobs. Nextgov

Pentagon “Hack the Proxy” Program Uncovers 31 Vulnerabilities, One Critical
Ethical hackers found 31 vulnerabilities–one rated critical while nine got a high severity rating–during the Pentagon’s Hack the Proxy program on the HackerOne platform. Although the Sept. 3-18 initiative was eighth version of the bug bounty program, it was the first “focused on securing content intermediaries for publicly accessible proxy servers owned by the government,” the Defense Department said in a statement. SC Magazine

NASA Paid SpaceX for Safety Review after Musk Smoked Pot
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s infamous pot-smoking incident last year prompted NASA to order a mandatory review of the federal contractor’s workplace culture—but taxpayers, not the company, are bearing the cost, according to contracting records reviewed by POLITICO. The space agency agreed to pay SpaceX $5 million in May to cover the cost of the review, which includes educating its employees and ensuring they are following strict guidelines for federal contractors barring illegal drug use. Politico

One More Thing …

What Astronaut Diaries Tell Us about the Perils of a Mission to Mars
For 13 years, 20 astronauts typed their joy, pain, annoyance, elation, boredom, anger, contentment, and loneliness into massive files that, by anthropologist Jack Stuster's estimate, could fill two Russian novels he alone would read. "They might not confess their frailties to their colleagues or their flight surgeon, but they did to me," says Stuster of the material for the two studies he completed, first from 2003 to 2010, then 2011 to 2016. With the data dumps complete, he could start looking for trends. Popular Science