Metro-East News

Roger That: Kirk introduces bill to allow Pentagon to buy, develop electronic warfare weapons

U.S. senators Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have introduced a bill to enable the Pentagon to cut through acquisition red tape and provide more funding flexibility to develop electronic warfare technology.

Concered that the U.S. military’s electronic warfare capabilities have fallen behind those of countries like Russia, China and Iran, Kirk and Gillibrand have introduced a measure to get lifesaving electronic warfare technologies to the warfighter more quickly, according to a statement Kirk released.

The Electronic Warfare Enhancement Act would include electronic warfare programs under the Pentagon’s Rapid Acquisition Authority Program, enabling program managers to waive acquisition rules and regulations to move more quickly in acquiring and fielding electronic warfare technology.

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Gen. Darren W. McDew, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, based at Scott, discussed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Harvard and the task of attracting millennials to the military before an audience of students and professors at Quincy House Wednesday, according to the Harvard Crimson newspaper.

McDew emphasized the importance of ROTC at Harvard and more generally, saying such programs “allow the American public to better understand its military.”

“In our democratic society, it’s vitally important that we have the support of the American public,” he said.

Harvard—which began its Army ROTC program in 1916 and its Navy ROTC program in 1926, anddropped both 1995 after protests criticized the military’s policies toward homosexuals—reinstated theNavy ROTC program in 2011 and Army ROTC in 2012 after the military repealed its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Harvard does not recognize Air Force ROTC, though students and alumni are pushing for recognition.

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Four U.S. senators are calling on the Army to stop kicking out soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and have been diagnosed with mental health problems or traumatic brain injuries — effective immediately.

The senators say they’re motivated by an investigation by NPR and Colorado Public Radio that revealed the Army has continued to discharge troubled troops for misconduct, even though the Army's then-Acting Secretary Eric Fanning promised late last year to investigate whether the practice is unfair.

NPR found that since 2009, the Army has kicked out more than 22,000 mentally wounded combat troops on the grounds of misconduct, and taken away their benefits, instead of helping them. As a result of that report, 12 Senate Democrats sent a letter demanding an investigation to Fanning and the general who, working together, run the Army.

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President Obama is being pressed by some of his national security aides, including his top military advisers, to approve the use of American forces in Libya to open another front against the Islamic State, according to the New York Times.

But Obama, wary of embarking on an intervention in another Muslim country, has told his aides to redouble their efforts to help form a unity government in Libya at the same time the Pentagon refines its options.

Those include airstrikes, commando raids or advising vetted Libyan militias on the ground, as Special Operations forces are doing now in eastern Syria.

Covert C.I.A. paramilitary missions are also being considered, but the use of large numbers of American ground troops is not on the table.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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