News Briefs – January 30, 2017


Navy to begin constructing pier at Port Angeles this summer

The Navy plans this summer to construct a pier and facilities at Port Angeles to support vessels that escort submarines between the Hood Canal and the Pacific Ocean.
But pile driving and other work can’t begin until mid-July, when in-water work can be done without harming fish.
The Navy last week received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to remove a jetty as part of the $25 million project.
The Daily News of Port Angeles says the Navy is building a 425-foot pier and other facilities as a rest stop for crews on vessels that escort submarines based at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor and to comply with Coast Guard requirements for crew rest between missions.
Some residents have raised concerns about noise, environmental and other impacts. AP

Pentagon orders cost reviews of F-35 fighter, Air Force One

Defense Secretary James Mattis Jan. 27 ordered reviews of two key Air Force aircraft programs that have been criticized by President Donald Trump as too expensive.
Mattis asked Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work to conduct a review of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to find ways to “significantly reduce” the costs. He said the review should compare the F-35 with the F/A-18 Super Hornet and determine if an upgraded Hornet could be a cost effective alternative that also meets requirements.
Mattis also asked for a review of the presidential aircraft program — known as Air Force One — to identify cost savings. Boeing is slated to build two new planes to replace the aging models that shuttle the president around the world. The new aircraft would go into service around 2024.
Mattis’ orders come after Trump’s tweets in December revealing that he asked Boeing to “price-out” a comparable Super Hornet became of cost overruns in Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
The stealthy F-35 has a nearly $400 billion price tag. Three versions for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are being built, and other countries, including Israel, are buying the fighter jet.
Despite the huge cost, the program has strong bipartisan support in Congress, where lawmakers view the aircraft as essential to U.S. national security.
Trump also tweeted last month that the costs of the new Air Force One were “out of control.” He demanded: “Cancel order!”
Last March, the Government Accountability Office, the government’s auditing arm, estimated total program costs at more than $3.2 billion, much of it for research and development, through the 2020 federal budget year. The Defense Department and Air Force officials put the cost for two new aircraft at about $4 billion, when research and development, construction and future maintenance were included.
The Air Force has pressed for a faster replacement schedule, saying the aging current Boeing 747s are becoming too expensive to repair and keep in good flying shape.
While Mattis, Trump and the Pentagon can push for deep cuts or even try to cancel the program, Congress controls the government’s purse strings and makes final budget decisions. AP

Germany extends military training mission in northern Iraq

Germany’s Parliament has extended the country’s training mission in northern Iraq for another year.
Some 150 soldiers with the Bundeswehr have been training Kurdish “Peshmerga” militias already for two years to help in the fight against Islamic State extremists.
The decision to extend the mission another year passed easily Jan. 26 with 444 of 557 lawmakers voting for it, the dpa news agency reported.
In a separate vote, lawmakers also agreed to expand the Bundeswehr’s engagement in Mali as part of a U.N. mission in the West African nation, raising the maximum number of soldiers to 1,000 from 650. AP