2 months ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader warn of fierce competition for space

A skyward glance on a clear night for most people means a glimpse toward a place with actual peace and quiet, a place free from the type of conflict and demonstrations of force arising frequently around the globe.

Looks can be deceiving, though, according to two experts who spoke at last week’s Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that the sought-after edge in modern warfare has driven a frenetic race among nations to control space.

Appearing with Bruno on a panel at the event hosted by the Aspen Institute, Wilson emphasized that America’s national security has become dependent on the use of satellites given the advanced technology of warfare.

“The United States is the best in the world at space – and our adversaries know it,” pronounced Wilson.

Which is why our nation’s foreign adversaries are working to deny America the use of space.

She said China and Russia have been “developing the capability” to interfere with or destroy American military satellites “in order to influence military operations on the ground.”

The potential for interference has sharpened the military’s approach to protecting the nation’s interests in space.

“Our responsibility is to look at the threat, to develop the strategies and the programs to be able to prevail should war extend to space,” Wilson outlined.

Bruno sees access to space as essential for the country to maintain its position of strength.

“We have the most capable space assets in the world,” he said. “We have the most capable and powerful military in the world.”

Bruno pointed out that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, “it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

“We have not recognized that threat until recently and so we are far behind countering that threat,” he warned. “We will catch up. This country has the most capable technological workforce in military on this planet. We absolutely will prevail but right now we are behind in the race, and it’s going to take some serious and hard work to fix that.”

As an example of ways other countries are developing strategies to interfere with satellite technology, Wilson drew attention to China’s launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite and Russia’s launch of a maintenance satellite with a grappling arm. Wilson wondered aloud why Russia would need a satellite equipped with such a device in the absence of any Russian satellites requiring maintenance. In addition to China and Russia, she identified India as a country capable of interfering with satellite functions.

What’s at stake?

The Air Force has 80 satellites in use, the Navy has 13 and the National Reconnoissance Office has 40 — the smallest the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Of the 80 Air Force satellites on orbit, 33 are Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, a fact which allowed Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

As part of intelligence gathering, satellites provide missile warnings. When North Korea launches a missile, American satellites gather the intel. Wilson informed that the satellites stare at the earth and use infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

Wilson believes the importance of these activities raises some critical questions moving forward.

“What are the capabilities that we need to have in crisis or war?” she asked. “How will we think about interference with commercial assets on orbit, in particular? Is there more to do? You bet. Particularly when it comes to changing the culture of the institution of space warfighters. From providing a service…to being and thinking like warfighters.”

Having so much at stake will also require drawing a hard line for those seeking to harm American interests, according to Wilson.

“We need to let our adversaries know that there will be consequences for interfering with our satellites in time of crisis,” she said.

What’s next?

Wilson and Bruno recognized the continued building of assets in space as valuable to American interests.

However, based on his expertise as a launch provider, Bruno shared the difficulty that comes with making that happen.

“It is a narrow highway to space,” he said. “So all of those critical assets have to get there on top of a space launch vehicle – which is in itself a technological marvel. A 30-story building that blasts itself into space with an incredibly delicate space craft on top.”

He sees ULA’s participation in the Air Force’s national security launch program, a program to develop new and innovative rockets, as helping to bolster the nation’s space assets.

“We will have access to space that is so much more agile, so much more flexible,” he remarked.

He considers it a program designed to confront “the tremendous strategic challenge of a contested environment in space.”

This is the same program numerous members of Alabama’s congressional delegation have fought to preserve. ULA was one of three companies awarded contracts as part of the public-private partnership.

An effort popped up in Congress to scrap the program in order to allow companies who lost out in the first round of awards to get a second bite at the apple.

Bruno’s view is that opening the process back up to companies who failed to win an award in the first go-round would run counter to the spirit of the competitive process.

“It’s not competition if everybody gets an award,” he remarked.

In the meantime, Bruno expressed excitement for his company’s progress on the new rocket, including the start of fabrication.

And Wilson observes significant progress with how the nation’s leaders have reacted to the competition for space.

She recalled crafting an opening statement for her confirmation hearing which had ‘space’ and ‘warfighting’ in the same sentence. While reviewing it with an Obama administration holdover, the official proceeded to strike it out based upon the policy that those two subjects should not be discussed together. According to Wilson, she told them, “‘You’ll have to get somebody more senior to tell me to take it out.'”

Having left her post as secretary on May 31, Wilson will assume the president’s office at the University of Texas at El Paso on August 15.

She leaves feeling confident in the direction of America’s national security space program in the face of ever-increasing competition.

“We have come a long way in talking about the threats that are there and the things that we need to do about them,” she concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

9 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Brad Mendheim for state Supreme Court

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Monday announced its endorsement of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Brad Mendheim in the Republican primary for place two on the court.

Mendheim was first appointed to the state’s highest court by Governor Kay Ivey in 2018. He lost election to a full term to that office in the 2018 election cycle but was appointed to a different vacancy, place two, on the Supreme Court by Ivey earlier this year.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to support Justice Mendheim in his race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court.”

“His conservative judicial philosophy along with a proven track record earned over 20 years make him the right person for the job,” he concluded.

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Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court by Ivey, Mendheim was a circuit judge for Houston and Henry counties from 2009- 2018.

Before his election to that office, he served as district judge of Houston County from 2001-2008 and as an assistant district attorney, making him uniquely qualified as a former prosecutor and trial judge.

“I am honored to receive the support of Forest PAC, a group which has a long reputation of supporting conservative leaders in the state of Alabama,” Mendheim emphasized.

He advised, “My judicial philosophy is simple: to follow the Constitution and rule with impartiality, and I pledge to continue that as long as I am privileged to serve. It is not our role on the Alabama Supreme Court to bring a political agenda to work, and I strongly believe that groups such as the Forestry Association recognize that all who come before our court deserve two things: a fair review of the facts and ultimately, for the rule of law to be upheld.”

During his judicial career, Mendheim has presided over more than 300 jury trials.

He graduated with a BA from Auburn University and went on to receive his JD from Cumberland School of Law. Mendheim and his wife, Michelle, have been married for over 24 years. They are the proud parents of three sons: Connor, Ryan and Carson. They are long time members of First Baptist Church of Dothan, where Brad is a Sunday school teacher and deacon.

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

9 hours ago

Alabama’s Tony Cochran launches new initiative to help grow small businesses

After 40 years of business advising, Alabama-based businessman Tony Cochran is excited to announce the creation of Team Delta3, LLC.

Team Delta3 will essentially offer a premier business boot camp, taking on the task of educating business owners on best practices for success with a focus on the three key ways to grow their businesses.

In a statement, Cochran explained, “For over four decades I have watched business owners who are very good at their respective craft, struggle to be successful.”

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He is the president of CK Business Solutions, PC, a consulting and accounting firm headquartered in Albertville.

Roughly 20 years ago, Cochran changed his focus from delivering traditional business, tax and accounting advice to one of helping business owners find solutions to everyday problems. His passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, develop repeatable processes and face the modern-day challenges in an increasingly competitive world has led him to be a part of an elite group of business advisors.

“Many universities, small business incubators and consultants have tried various ways to help businesses grow,” Cochran outlined. “Our approach at Team Delta3 is to take proven techniques and present them in a concentrated, focused ‘Boot Camp’ style environment so that each participant leaves with the tangible game plan needed to grow their business into a thriving enterprise.”

Beyond his own successful advisory businesses, Cochran has been recognized by a number of organizations for his leadership and civic contributions.

He is a board member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and previously served on its executive committee. Currently, Cochran is a member of the 30th (XXX) class of Leadership Alabama, chairman of the board of the Albertville Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the board of his church, founding chairman of the Albertville City Schools Foundation, board member of the North Central Alabama Girl Scouts and in 2002 received the Citizen of the Year Award the highest award given for community service in his hometown. He also holds the designations of CPA and CMGA.

However, the impressive involvement does not end at the Alabama state line for Cochran.

Later this month, he will be a VIP at the Living Legends event in New York City.

Living Legends brings together the top business consultants in the United States to exchange ideas and develop a nationwide network of renowned consultants in marketing, internet sales, branding, growth and general business. These include people such as Martha Stewart, Michael Gerber and Clint Arthur.

As a VIP, Cochran will be internationally recognized for his skills and contribution to business clients throughout the course of his career.

“For someone who calls Sand Mountain home, having the opportunity to be a part of an event as large in scope as Living Legends is an incredible honor. I look forward to integrating concepts and collaborators from Living Legends into the new venture of Team Delta3 and our BootCamp experience,” Cochran concluded.

“BootCamp” participants can expect intensive training during the course of the three-day event. Concepts related to market growth, key performance indicators and applied metrics will be developed for each business. These indicators will be the drivers that provide owners measurable results.

Find out more here.

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

11 hours ago

Bradley Byrne previews attacks that are sure to come against Tommy Tuberville

Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville is the frontrunner in the GOP primary race for the right to take on United States Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) but eventually, the attacks will come.

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) may have been showing how Tuberville’s opponents are going to take him on in the near future at a meeting of the Tennessee Valley Republican Club on Saturday morning.

Byrne touched on the carpetbagger allegation without mention Tuberville, saying, “I’m from here, not from wherever else. I love Alabama and know what we need to get done.”

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Later he added, “I didn’t come back here to run because it’s convenient. I love this state and I love fighting for Alabama. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with me – a fighter.”

This is hardly a new tact for Tuberville’s detractors, and it may be effective because Alabama is a very proud state that loves its homegrown products.

Byrne further questioned Tuberville’s reason for running.

I’m not running for this seat because I got bored and needed something to do,” he said while touting his service to Alabama. “I’ve spent most of my life serving. I want to help the people of this great state.”

But it wasn’t all attacks for Byrne on Saturday morning. The congressman also touted his experience in Washington as the most important for Alabamians to support his candidacy.

“It’s more about being able to sit in a room and get things done for your state. I know how to do that, and I’ll be able to keep getting things done for Alabama,” he explained.

Byrne would mention the Space Force command and praise North Alabama as the perfect place for it while adding, “There is nowhere in the country better equipped for it, and as your senator, I’ll continue to fight every day to see that we get things like this done.”

How an argument about experience and effectiveness works in 2020, and in the era of Trump, remains to be seen.

What is clear, is that the issues Byrne is talking about on the campaign trail now will continue to be heard as long as Tommy Tuberville is an untraditional and inexperienced candidate with an apparent lead in the polls.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

12 hours ago

Tuberville: Alabamians ‘trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians’

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the Yellowhammer State, on Monday appeared on Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.” to discuss his support of President Donald Trump and the state of the race to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Tuberville reiterated his belief that “President Trump has saved this country.”

He said he was unsure who the president will support in Alabama’s GOP senatorial primary, if anyone, but emphasized Trump’s support “goes a long way in the state.”

Tuberville also reaffirmed that he will not take his salary if elected to the U.S. Senate.

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“[W]e’ve got to get away from the career politicians,” Tuberville remarked. “I’m not an establishment [candidate], I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m not taking a salary. I want to do it for the right reasons.”

The guest host then asked the former college football coach if his ties to Auburn might dissuade some Crimson Tide fans from voting for him.

“You know, before I decided to run, I did my due diligence,” Tuberville responded. “I went across the state talking to people about this.”

“And you know, at the end of the day, the people of Alabama — they trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians,” he continued. “So, I’m going to get as many (University of) Alabama votes. I’m going to get Auburn votes.”

“We need something strong, you know. We need people who make decisions for the right reasons. And they trust football coaches in this state, I promise you that,” Tuberville concluded.

Watch:

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

12 hours ago

Mondays for Moms: Let them be little

Let them be little

I was rocking my littlest one to sleep this weekend when out-of-the-blue stressful thoughts began savagely invading my somewhat peaceful brain …

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What about those dishes, Erin? You forgot to clean the kitchen table after lunch.

When are you ever gonna get to all those baskets of laundry that are piling up like garbage piles on trash day? 

And how about those windows that have prehistoric fingerprints on them from when the babies were just that … babies … ahhh!

Then, my little girl’s hand gently stroked my arm. She had no clue that her simple gesture soothed her over-stressed momma instantly.

Today, I am rocking my little girl comfortably in our glider tucked away from the crazies of the real world. But, one day I’ll be rocking nervously back and forth in my bed waiting to see the lights from her car pour onto my comforter signaling she has made it home safely once again.

Today, I am cutting the edges off of my toddler’s toast to make sure she enjoys every bite. But, one day, I’ll be desperately avoiding cutting the “helicopter mommy” cord on her wedding day wishing more than anything to be “slaving away” on the heart-shaped PB&Js in the kitchen again.

Today, I am hoping she doesn’t scream “mommy” one more time while I hide under the dining room table searching for any amount of sanity that might be miraculously hidden under there. But, tomorrow, I will be giving any amount of money to hear her say my name each time a need arises in her precious adult life.

Today, I am folding her sheets and towels only to discover her playing hide and seek tucked deep in the laundry basket among all the dryer sheets and warmth. But, one day, I’ll be reluctantly walking the aisles at Target with her shopping for dorm linens, shower shoes and bath caddies.

Today, I am reading her bedtime stories and singing soft little tunes as I have the privilege of tucking her in. But, one day, I’ll be reading her name on a graduation pamphlet and fighting back tears as I sing hymns of congratulatory praise for her accomplishments.

So the laundry, the dishes and the tidying can take a seat. All those chores can be done when I get around to it … whenever that may be.

Because right now, I’m gonna let her be little. And soak up every last minute of it.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.