1 year ago

Air Force leader responds to Brooks, indicates national security space launch program will proceed as planned

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has responded to Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) and his request that the military move forward with a national security space launch program heavily supported by Alabama’s aerospace industry.

In her reply, as well as in a separate response to House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, Wilson indicated the Air Force would proceed in the manner called for by Brooks.

Brooks sent a letter to Wilson with signatures from a bipartisan group of 27 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging her to maintain the Air Force’s previously planned course and implement the second phase of the established space launch program.

The approach called for by the members who signed the letter is based on the need to keep America up to speed in the national security space race — and one from which Alabama’s aerospace industry stands to benefit.

Members of Alabama’s House delegation who also signed the letter in support included Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Martha Roby (AL-02), Robert Aderholt (AL-04) and Terri Sewell (AL-07). Reps. Mike Rogers (AL-03) and Gary Palmer (AL-06) did not sign the letter.

Wilson confirmed to Brooks in her response that the Air Force would soon release a request for proposals for the second phase of the program. She outlined to him that they would announce the contract awards during spring 2020.

This is significant for Alabama because Decatur’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) was among the companies awarded the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for national security space missions under the program.

News of the award to ULA brought praise from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and others, at the time.

The companies, including ULA, entered into the agreement understanding that certain performance requirements were necessary to participate in a second phase of the program where the Air Force would only call on the top two providers.

As a result, the companies became incentivized to make substantial investments for the opportunity to participate in the second phase.

ULA’s rocket manufacturing plant in Alabama is 1.6 million square feet and is the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere.

The quality of jobs created by the aerospace industry has a multiplying effect across the Yellowhammer State. Industry estimates are that every aerospace job results in ten more jobs throughout the region.

ULA has calculated its annual economic impact to the state at approximately $285 million, with company leadership envisioning that impact escalating as the Air Force’s national security space launch program proceeds.

After sending the letter to Wilson, Brooks outlined to Yellowhammer News his reasons for urging the Air Force to maintain its schedule for the program.

“America’s military relies heavily on space to defend America,” he explained. “Therefore, America must have reliable and affordable space access options. The Air Force conducted a robust and competitive launch provider selection process open to all U.S. launch providers. National security requires that the Air Force’s launch provider acquisition must remain on schedule.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) had petitioned Wilson to deviate from the Air Force’s plan. Feinstein and Smith registered their objections to the process and sought to modify it based on interests from with their own state.

In her response to the California members, Wilson said she was “proud” of the Air Force’s conduct of the process.

Wilson pointed out that it was Congress who directed the military to “assure access to space using two domestic launch service providers capable of launching to our most demanding National Security Space orbits.”

She also detailed the effort put forth to devise a competitive process, including independent reviews and more than 1,500 industry comments.

Wilson expressed her confidence in the need to advance the program.

“I agree that assured access to space remains a critical component of the Nation’s security strategy,” she wrote. “The time is right to start Launch Service Procurement competition by releasing the Request for Proposal now in order to select the two best-value offerors next spring and meet the deadline set by Congress to end reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine.”

Brooks agreed.

“Essentially, one launch provider is not enough and three providers are too many. Two providers is the sweet spot, and the sooner we get to two providers, the better off America and its taxpayers will be,” he concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

15 hours ago

Nick Saban named to board of National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches created by former Tide assistant

Former University of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Thursday announced the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.

Locksley served as an offensive assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2016, followed by a year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach the next season before becoming the full-time offensive coordinator in 2018. He is now the head coach at the University of Maryland.

Speaking to NFL.com, Locksley cited a lack of black head coaches in the National Football League as well as among the college Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level,” he told the outlet.

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Locksley is not the only Bama connection to the new nonprofit group, which will reportedly “seek to not only identify and groom coaches of color (male and female) for upward mobility, but also create a candidates list that will be vetted by a board of directors that includes some of the most respected and powerful names in sport.”

Included on that venerable board of directors is Tide head coach Nick Saban, as well as Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome was named to the College Football Hall of Fame after a four-year playing career at the University of Alabama. He also enjoyed a successful playing career in the NFL and is a two-time Super Bowl winning executive with the Baltimore Ravens.

Speaking about the board of directors featuring the likes of Saban and Newsome, Locksley explained, “These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers. They all have been at the top of the mountain, per se, in their respective areas, whether winning Super Bowls or national championships or being pioneers…”

“We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren’t enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we’re going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people. What’s needed is opportunities,” he added.

RELATED: Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

UAH receives grant to research how drones can aid disaster response

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced Thursday that it has received $1.1 million in grant funding to study how unmanned aircraft can aid the response to both manmade and natural disasters.

The money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who granted a total of $3.3 million to the 24 universities in that comprise an Alliance for System Safety that focuses on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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UAH says it aims “to provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas,” with the funding provided this week by the federal government.

A release from the university points to a FAA study that shows there are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the United States.

Huntsville’s biggest university says that the FAA program from which the grant is derived enables the agency “to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety.”

“These important grants fund the research which allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

16 hours ago

Warrant issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes

MONTGOMERY — A felony arrest warrant has been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announced in a Thursday press conference.

The warrant is for first-degree theft of property, a Class B felony. The freshman state legislator allegedly stole more than $2,500 from a former employer, Weiss Flooring in Alabama’s capital city.

Bailey said Dismukes has not yet been arrested and has until Thursday at 4:00 p.m. CT to turn himself in.

The district attorney reminded the public that a warrant represents “a mere allegation” and that Dismukes remains presumed innocent “until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.”

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Bailey advised “the alleged amount is a lot more than” $2,500 stolen. He added that he was limited on providing specifics on the case and the allegations at this time.

The DA advised that the business owners brought the allegation to authorities. The time period of the alleged offense was “from 2016 to 2018,” per Bailey.

Dismukes reportedly told WSFA that he is innocent.

The state representative from Autauga County has come under fire recently for his participation in a celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Weiss Flooring made the complaint on May 20, which would have been before Dismukes initially made headlines for Confederate-related issues. Authorities have since that date been investigating, leading to a warrant being signed on Thursday.

While Dismukes has rejected bipartisan calls for him to resign over his recent controversies, a felony conviction would automatically remove him from office.

UPDATE 3:00 p.m.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) reacted to the news.

“If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust. I support the letter of the law, and no one is above it – especially those in public office,” the governor stated.

UPDATE 4:00 p.m.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement on Dismukes.

“We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” she commented. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

This is breaking news and will be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Shelby cautions on COVID-19 relief: ‘The Democrats might not want a deal, politically’

As the White House continues to lead negotiations with congressional Democrats over the latest COVID-19 relief package, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is sounding the alarm over election year politics possibly being put ahead of the welfare of the American people.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been at the forefront of negotiations on the Republican side of the aisle. He has said that Democrats, led by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have rejected four different offers to extend the $600 per week federal unemployment supplemental that expired this past Friday.

“Those four different offers have been actually rejected — but more importantly than that, they’ve not even been countered,” Meadows said last week.

Democrats have said they want a broader deal that lasts through the first quarter of 2021, however Republicans have admonished items seemingly unrelated to the pandemic that their counterparts on the left have tried to force through in negotiations. This includes Pelosi’s defense of funding for marijuana businesses in the latest Democratic relief proposal.

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The Democrats’ proposal also “omitted language restricting abortion funding [with federal monies] and added protections against deportation of illegal immigrants,” as reported by the New York Post.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the Pelosi-led proposal “reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word ‘coronavirus’ on top of it.”

Despite this Democrat proposal being dead on arrival in the Senate, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has for weeks been calling on McConnell to take up the legislation. However, even though the Pelosi bill got just one Republican vote in the House, Jones has blamed Republicans for making “this into a partisan issue.” Alabama’s junior senator, while decrying the partisan nature of the negotiations, has also campaigned on the issue, seemingly adding to the politicization of coronavirus relief efforts.

“This election, more than any other I can remember, shows us the stark choice we can make as a country. We can stand together, listen to the experts about how to beat COVID-19, work together to make real change and end racial injustice and protect our health care – or we can let the extremists drive us apart and block any hope for real change,” Jones wrote in a July 31 campaign email.

However, Alabama’s senior senator — considered one of the most bipartisan elected officials in Washington, D.C., and a true statesman — on Thursday seemed to rebut Jones’ claims that it was Republicans playing politics with COVID-19 relief.

While some on Capitol Hill have expressed relative optimism at reaching a deal in the coming days, Senator Shelby explained why a final compromise might never come to fruition, no matter how much Republicans give ground.

Per Politico, the Senate Appropriations chairman told reporters in the Capitol, “We might not get a deal. … I think there’s a lot of pessimism here — ‘will we get an agreement? Are we too far apart?'”

“We’re at an impasse right now,” Shelby advised. “I would hope over the next few days we can get together and do something that will help a lot of working people in America. Republicans and Democrats, get together. At the moment, it doesn’t look promising.”

Per Hill pool reports, Shelby further explained, “The Democrats might not want a deal, politically. Think about it.”

McConnell, an Alabama native himself, in a Thursday afternoon tweet seemed to back Shelby’s idea.

Both Republicans and Democrats have publicly voiced their support of another round of stimulus checks for Americans, likely up to $1,200 each to match the first round of checks that went out earlier this year. It remains to be seen if agreement can be reached on the many other items on the table.

If a deal cannot be reached soon, President Donald Trump has now said that he will take executive action to provide relief to the American people. Issues Trump is considering acting on himself include “Payroll Tax Cut, Eviction Protections, Unemployment Extensions, and Student Loan Repayment Options,” per a Thursday tweet by the president.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

USA Today on Thursday released its annual preseason Amway Coaches Poll of the top 25 teams heading into the 2020 college football season.

Former University of Alabama player and assistant coach Dabo Swinney’s Clemson was ranked first in the poll, with Ohio State coming next.

The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 3, trailed by fellow SEC teams Georgia and LSU to round-out the top five.

Gus Malzahn’s Auburn team was ranked 11th.

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This marks the Tide’s 11th consecutive year entering the season ranked as one of the top-three teams in the nation.

The poll utilizes a points system. Receiving 1,495 points, Bama was closer to No. 1 Clemson than fourth-place Georgia.

USA Today wrote, “The Crimson Tide and Nick Saban start the season with a playoff cloud looming over them. The Tide did not make final four for the first time since the championship system started in 2014. With several players lost to the NFL draft including QB Tua Tagovailoa, a lot of production will need to be replaced. But senior WR DeVonta Smith will be returning as well as OT Alex Leatherwood and LB Dylan Moses. The quarterback question looms with junior Mac Jones, who made four starts last year, and true freshman Bryce Young the top contenders for the starting spot.”

The Auburn Tigers received 898 points, coming in just ahead of No. 12 Wisconsin.

“The Tigers offense should be more consistent behind sophomore quarterback Bo Nix, who was key in wins against Oregon and Alabama but struggled in other games,” USA Today explained. “WR Seth Williams provides a big-play target. There is some rebuilding to be done. The Tigers return just seven starters overall and the heaviest losses are on defense. DL Big Kat Bryant and LB K.J. Britt are elite players at their position, but the overhaul on that side of the ball might take some time to find a rhythm in a grueling SEC division. That puts more pressure on Nix to carry the load early.”

The Southeastern Conference recently approved a 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 football season, with the first game set to occur on September 26.

The SEC also approved a revised preseason practice schedule as a result.

Schools are now permitted to conduct up to 14 hours per week of strength and conditioning, meetings and walkthroughs from August 7-16. From August 17 until the opening game, schools are allowed 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week of practice time. A five-day acclimatization period is required, with two days in helmets only, two days in shells and the fifth day in full pads. Additionally, schools must provide student-athletes a minimum of two days off per week until the week before their first game of the season.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn