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July 16, 2014

News Briefs July 16, 2013

Military’s tobacco discount: Up in smoke

The familiar image of a battle-hardened member of the military smoking a cigarette may become a little less common.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee July 15 approved a $549.3 billion defense spending bill that would eliminate the 25 percent discount that members of the armed services enjoy when buying tobacco products at commissaries and elsewhere, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee, said studies show that tobacco use is higher in the military. He said that translates into more illnesses and health care costs of $1.6 billion a year.

There is no reason these deadly products are subsidized, Durbin said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was surprised that the subsidy was so high.

The defense bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would do away with the discount.
The move is controversial and certain to generate disagreements in Congress.

The House version of the defense policy bill would thwart any Navy efforts to restrict access to tobacco. In May, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., described smoking as one of the few pleasures for a member of the military, and he easily convinced his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee to back his measure. AP

Oshkosh Corp. armored truck passes military test – (Eds: APNewsNow.)

Oshkosh Corp. says it has reached an important milestone in the creation of a new truck meant to replace Humvee troop carriers.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported July 15 that a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle made by Oshkosh Defense recently transferred critical mission data from onboard computer systems to external networks during a test at a U.S. Army facility in Arizona.

Oshkosh Defense says in a statement that the new truck has passed every test so far in the JLTV program.

The Wisconsin-based company is one of three bidding on a contract to produce vehicles to replace about 55,000 military Humvees.

The new trucks are intended to provide better protection from the roadside bombs that have killed many troops in Afghanistan. AP

Initial review of Iraq forces done; no decisions

Pentagon leaders are now reviewing the military’s initial assessment of Iraq’s security forces and it may be some time before decisions are made about what additional assistance the U.S. should provide as the Baghdad government battles Sunni insurgents.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has read the completed assessment. A Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel received it but had not reviewed it yet.

Defense officials declined to detail the report. Dempsey has said the updates he’s received describe a logistically challenged Iraqi force that would have a hard time going on the offensive against the Islamic State extremist group.

The Pentagon spokesman said there is a sense of urgency about the situation in Iraq but it’s important to get the decision right. AP

SpaceX launches cluster of commercial satellites

The SpaceX company has launched a rocket packed with communication satellites.

The Falcon rocket blasted off July 14 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. On board were six advanced satellites for the New Jersey-based Orbcomm. Eleven more of these satellites are to be launched in the coming year.

The 374-pound satellites will offer two-way data links to help customers track, monitor and control transportation and logistics assets, heavy equipment, oil and gas infrastructure, ships and buoys, and government-owned equipment.

The launch had been delayed repeatedly since May for technical and other reasons.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. – or SpaceX – is also working to ferry space station cargo for NASA. The company is based in Hawthorne, Calif. AP

Bergdahl returns to regular U..S Army duty

A senior U.S. defense official says Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who spent nearly five years as a Taliban captive in Afghanistan, has been returned to regular Army duty.

As of July 14 he is assigned to U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas. That is the same location where he has been decompressing from the effects of his lengthy captivity.

His exact duties were not immediately disclosed.

The Army was expected to officially announce the Bergdahl move Monday. A senior defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to provide details about the decision on the record before the announcement.

Bergdahl was released from captivity on May 31 in exchange for five top Taliban commanders imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. AP

Boeing gets OK to develop almost 500 acres in S.C.

Boeing may now proceed with development of almost 500 acres near its assembly plant in North Charleston, N.C.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the aerospace company’s plans to offset the loss of wetlands at the site by preserving nearly 4,000 acres near the Francis Marion National Forest northeast of Charleston.

About half of the 4,000-acre tract being preserved is wetlands.

Boeing plans to develop 468 acres near its assembly plant. About 153 acres of that land is wetlands, requiring mitigation by preserving property elsewhere.

Boeing has not said how it will develop the land. AP




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