News Briefs – March 20, 2019

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Congressman pitches Louisiana for Trump’s Space Force locale

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham is urging President Donald Trump to consider Louisiana for the future headquarters of Trump’s proposed Space Force.
The Republican congressman wrote a letter to the president, suggesting Louisiana was an “ideal location” because of its strong existing relationships with the military and NASA.
Abraham, who is running for governor, says Space Force would “fit perfectly” at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City. He notes NASA’s existing Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has built components for the nation’s space program for decades.
Space Force would be the first new military service since 1947. The Pentagon proposes the program would begin in 2020.
Congress first must authorize the new service, making its fate unclear. Critics have questioned the need to create a separate Space Force. AP
 

U.S. Navy won’t alter sail-bys at sea despite China maneuver

The U.S. Navy won’t alter its so-called “freedom of navigation” sail-bys in the disputed South China Sea and has pressed ahead with such operations despite a dangerous maneuver by a Chinese ship against an American destroyer.
Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told reporters in Manila on March 18 that Washington protested that “unprofessional behavior” by the Chinese ship, which maneuvered very close to the USS Decatur as the latter sailed closely by a Chinese-occupied island in the Spratlys in September.
Sawyer said the U.S. Navy will continue such sail-bys and patrols in the South China Sea and elsewhere “until there are no excessive maritime claims throughout the world.”
Sawyer spoke onboard the USS Blue Ridge, which arrived in Manila after sailing through the South China Sea. AP
 

Syria’s defense minister slams ‘illegitimate’ U.S. presence

Syria’s defense minister has slammed what he called the “illegitimate” U.S. military presence in his country, vowing that Syria has a right to self-defense.
Gen. Ali Ayoub spoke March 18 in the capital, Damascus, during a rare joint news conference with visiting Iranian and Iraqi army commanders.
The U.S. currently has about 2,000 troops in eastern Syria and is expected to withdraw hundreds of them in the coming months.
The meeting illustrates the strong alliance between Iran, Iraq and Syria at a time when the U.S. is seeking to isolate and increase sanctions against Iran and its regional allies.
The Iraqi army commander, Gen. Osman Ghanemi, also said a border crossing between Syria and Iraq is to be opened in the coming days. AP
 

U.S. bristles at Germany’s reduced defense budget plans

The United States is bristling at the suggestion Germany might miss its own defense spending target, which is already short of the NATO goal.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s budget plan, which is to be presented to cabinet on March 20, foresees Germany’s defense spending rising to 1.37 percent of national income in 2020, but decline to 1.25 by 2023, according to the dpa news agency, which reviewed a copy of the proposal.
NATO countries have pledged to move toward spending 2 percent of GDP on defense and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had pledged to increase spending to 1.5 percent by 2024.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell told The Associated Press March 18 the governments’ consideration of “reducing its already unacceptable commitments to military readiness is a worrisome signal to Germany’s 28 NATO allies.” AP