4 months ago

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Martha Roby delivers farewell address on House floor

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) this past week delivered her congressional farewell address on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The Republican from Montgomery chose not to seek reelection this year after serving five terms in Congress. Roby is widely and bipartisanly respected, especially when it comes to advocacy related to defense, veterans, agricultural and pro-life issues. She was also featured during several prominent committee hearings in recent years, including while on the chamber’s Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Committee on Benghazi.

Her ability to work across the aisle and personal popularity within the House was underscored as she walked up to the lectern to deliver her final floor address, as she was warmly introduced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

Roby’s speech began with the emotion of the moment evident in her voice and lasted approximately seven minutes.

Watch the entire address here or below:

Roby’s full remarks as prepared, as follows:

Mr. Speaker, I rise before you and my colleagues here today to speak for my final time on the House floor.

Seventeen years ago, my husband, Riley, and I prayerfully decided I would put my name on the ballot for the first time. Never could we have imagined the original decision to run for the Montgomery City Council would lead us to serve five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. We are so grateful that God allowed us to serve our country in this way, and we give all honor and glory to Him.

I count it a great privilege to have served the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District over the past decade, and I cannot adequately express how deeply thankful I am for the confidence my constituents have placed in me over the years.

Each of you sitting here before me knows the responsibility that comes along with being a Member of Congress. Yes, we are required to vote and to be the conscience of those we represent, but serving our constituents back home truly changes lives and our communities for the better.

As I look back on the wonderful things Team Roby was able to accomplish, along with the help of my colleagues in the Alabama delegation, I realize that our most significant duty is to help those who need us.

Whether it is requesting assistance with the VA or another federal agency, assisting with clean up following a large-scale weather event, voicing an opinion, or booking tours of the U.S. Capitol, my doors have always remained open to each person I represent.

I am thankful for the unique opportunities given to me by those who came before me, especially the chance to serve on several impactful committees including Appropriations, Judiciary, Agriculture, Armed Services, Education and the Workforce, and the Select Committee on Benghazi. Much work has been done in each of these revered committees to impact the lives of my constituents, and for that I am forever grateful.

I have been asked many times over the past few months what I will miss the most upon my departure, and my answer has remained the same – the relationships. The genuine friendships formed with my colleagues, my constituents, and so many others over the years and interacting with these individuals on a daily basis is what I will truly miss most.

For many, this past year was and continues to be very challenging. We have all experienced plenty of unfamiliar hardships. Not only has a global health pandemic taken center stage, but America is marked by intense division and polarization. Every time you turn on the television, you see a depiction of disunity among the American people. I imagine many Americans struggle to believe that friendship can actually exist within the halls of Congress.

It is incumbent upon us, Members of Congress, to join forces and work together to get things done for the good of the American people. When we reach across the aisle and work with the other side to arrive at a compromise for the benefit of those we serve, we are truly at our best.

I believe the American people are starving to see bipartisanship in action, especially during this time of much suffering and uncertainty. People want to know their leaders are working together for the common good and not just shouting each other down.

My greatest hope and prayer moving forward is that all Members of Congress – new and old, regardless of party identification, beliefs, or opinions – will come together and work toward a common goal to deliver real results for the American people. I have faith in this institution, and I have faith in each of you.

Now, I want to especially thank the people of the Second District. It is your faith and trust in me as your representative that helped me every step of the way. I am honored to have been given this incredibly unique opportunity, and I thank you for letting me be your voice in Congress.

Together, we have been able to deliver some incredible results for our military, veterans, agricultural community, and the unborn. While we made much progress together, the fight is not finished.

I want to thank my congressional colleagues for your kindness and friendship throughout the years. Not too far into my time in Congress, I woke up realizing the people I served with had become some of my very best friends. I am confident these relationships will continue. I will certainly miss our time spent together, having conversations about our families and encouraging one another.

I want to thank my incredible staff, all former and present members of Team Roby for your hard work on behalf of the people of Alabama and our country. I know all Members say this, but I truly believe I have the greatest staff in the world. I would never be able to execute this job without the dedication and support of my staff. They have worked tirelessly to serve the people of the Second District. We have a special saying on our team, “once Team Roby, always Team Roby.

And lastly, I want to thank my husband, Riley, and our two children, Margaret and George, my parents, the Robys, and our entire village for supporting our decision to serve our country. Your steadfast love and constant support have carried us through the easy and the hard times, and I love each of you dearly.

On behalf of Riley, Margaret, George, and myself, we sincerely thank all those who made our service to our country and the great State of Alabama possible and those who offered their services along the way.

Thank you, and for the very last time, I yield back.

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

32 mins ago

Alabama’s Holocaust Day of Remembrance observance to be April 11

American prisoner of war Roddie Edmonds stood in front of more than 1,200 fellow POWs, the commandant of a German Stalag holding a Luger to Edmonds’ head.

The day before, the commandant had demanded that all Jewish POWs among the 1,200-plus noncommissioned officers captured during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 present themselves outside their barracks the next morning. Edmonds, a master sergeant from Knoxville, Tennessee, was the group’s ranking officer. He ordered all the American POWs to stand in formation, like they did every morning.

The commandant was furious. “You can’t all be Jews!” he said. Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews here.”

That’s when the German drew his pistol and threatened to kill Edmonds. “You will order the Jews to step forward, or I will shoot you right now.”

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Edmonds told the commandant he would have to shoot all the prisoners and that after the war, which was nearing its end with Germany losing, he would be prosecuted for war crimes. The commandant about-faced and walked away. Among the POWs were 200 Jewish GIs. Edmonds’ remarkable bravery while staring down death saved their lives.

Edmonds’ son, Chris, senior pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee, will be the featured speaker Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m. at Alabama’s Holocaust Day of Remembrance. The annual observance of Yom HaShoah honors the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and Alabama’s survivors and their families. The event will be livestreamed. Click here to register.

Chris Edmonds recently received the Righteous Among the Nations award from Israel and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, on behalf of his father, who died in 1985. This story’s account of Roddie Edmonds’ heroism came from the classroom version of the award-winning documentary “Footsteps of My Father,” made by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in 2018.

Alabama’s Holocaust event is organized by the Alabama Holocaust Commission, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. The observance will include a rededication of the Anne Frank Tree in Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham.

In 2010, a group of Birmingham organizations planted a horse chestnut tree in the park to memorialize Frank, the young Jewish Holocaust victim who kept a diary of her experiences and could look out at a large horse chestnut tree in the garden as she and her family hid from the Nazis. The tree planted in Birmingham did not survive the Alabama climate. On April 11, the groups will rededicate an American beech that has replaced the horse chestnut tree.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will make a proclamation at the event and Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, will speak. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is part of the program, which includes music by violinist Niv Ashkenazi as part of the Violins of Hope, an artistic project of the restored instruments played by Jewish musicians in Holocaust camps. A candle-lighting ceremony will recognize Holocaust survivors and their families.

One of those survivors is Birmingham’s Dr. Robert May, who celebrated his 95th birthday in February. The retired OB-GYN counts himself extremely fortunate that he and his immediate family survived the Holocaust, although an aunt and uncle who helped them perished in Auschwitz.

“I have lived a long life. I’m 95 years old. It has been a fortuitous life. I have survived a disaster that happened to some of my family,” he said.

May was born in 1926 in Camberg, Germany, a small town about 50 miles from Frankfurt. He remembers playing soccer and marbles with other children in the park and living an “essentially normal” life – until Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 when May was 7.

“I was totally isolated after Hitler came to power,” he said. “Everyone knew everyone else, and knew we were Jewish. I was an outcast. By age 9, it became impossible for a kid to have a normal life because of isolation more than any physical harm.”

May remembers the indoctrination of his classmates into the Hitler Youth and being jealous of the fancy uniforms they wore.

“One of the episodes I remember vividly, I was chased by a couple of Nazi-uniformed kids in my class. They called me a dirty Jew. I escaped by way of a little entrance into our house in the back,” he said. “I told my father about it and that I called them a dirty Nazi back. My father said, ‘Don’t do that. There’s no need to aggravate them. Just run home and get away from them but don’t call them names.’

“That was the basic attitude of the Jews at the time,” May said. “’This will pass, we’ve been through worse.’ The attitude was, people will come to their senses.”

But they didn’t.

As things got worse for May, his Aunt Emma moved with him to Frankfurt in 1936, leaving behind his parents in Camberg. They lived in an apartment owned by his wealthy Uncle Siegmund, who had escaped Germany and lived in Holland. May’s uncle paid for him to attend the Philanthropin, a Jewish school that gave him an “extraordinary” education, until Kristallnacht in November 1938.

During Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” German mobs of paramilitary forces and civilians attacked and damaged or destroyed thousands of businesses and synagogues, killing at least 91 Jews, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Many others died after being arrested. Some 30,000 Jewish males from 16 to 60 were sent to concentration camps.

A neighbor had warned May and his Aunt Emma to leave their apartment, which rioters ransacked. The school and synagogue he attended were torched. Soon after, May, who was 12, traveled alone to Brighton, England, under the Kindertransport program. The rescue effort by the British government fed, educated and housed thousands of refugee children, most of them Jewish. Uncle Siegmund paid for May to attend a Jewish boarding school.

May’s parents, with only two suitcases, escaped to London two days before the war started in summer 1939, awaiting a visa to travel to the United States. May, his parents and his two older brothers, who had left Germany years earlier, ended up in New Orleans in 1940, where relatives lived. Meanwhile, Germany conquered much of Europe, including Holland, where May’s Aunt Emma had joined Uncle Siegmund.

“In 1940, when Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland and defeated France, they were overrun by the Germans in Amsterdam, deported in 1942 or 1943 and were killed in Auschwitz,” May said.

Fast-forward through May’s life to now: medical school in New Orleans, two years in the Air Force, marriage, moving to Birmingham in 1953 to start a medical practice, three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren over the course of almost a half-century as a doctor and finally, retirement. His life, he said, could have happened “only in America.”

“I’m married to a young lady that I’ve been married to 67 or 68 years. We’re still living in the same house we’ve lived in for 55 years. I have no complaints,” May said.

He paused.

“I do remember my aunt and uncle and what happened to them. Without them, I would not be here.”

Holocaust education

One of May’s children is Ann Mollengarden, education director of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. Stories like her father’s help people understand the impact the Holocaust had at a personal level.

“The difficulty with this subject is the magnitude,” she said. “Because of the magnitude, it often becomes something that is unrelatable. So it needs to be drawn down to the individuals and to their experiences, which are really diverse.

“Instead of making it about 6 million (deaths), it’s putting a face to the events,” Mollengarden said.

With hate speech and the number of hate crimes growing and Holocaust deniers spewing their lies on the internet and social media, educating people about the Holocaust remains a critical mission of BHEC, with the goal of creating a “more just, humane and tolerant future.”

“This was a time when humanity really went awry, and it is a representative time for all groups of people as to what can go wrong when we don’t follow the norms of humanity,” Mollengarden said. “We should be studying about this and learning about this because it shows how we can go wrong, how democracy can fail, how human beings can fail, and what we are capable of doing.”

Zoe Weil, BHEC’s director of programs and outreach, notes that hate speech can lead to hate crimes and to something far worse, as events in Germany under the Third Reich proved.

“It didn’t start with the camps. It was an incremental, slow process,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why a large population accepted it, or didn’t do as much as they should have because of those incremental laws of, oh, Jews can’t go to the park anymore. Jews can’t stay out past 7 anymore. No more Jewish businesses. Jews have to wear stars. Jews have to live in one area.”

Each of those steps, one after another, led to violence, to widespread killings and, ultimately, to state-sponsored, mass murder in concentration camps – not just 6 million Jews, but millions more people in other, targeted groups.

“That’s part of Holocaust education, learning the dangers of letting those ideas and thoughts and actions continue,” Weil said.

Not every Holocaust survivor endured the horrors of a concentration camp. Some fled, others went into hiding during the war.

“We define a survivor as anyone whose lives came under the Third Reich,” Mollengarden said.

BHEC continues working to document the stories of survivors who live or have lived in Alabama. With a founding board of directors that included Holocaust survivors, that’s one of the reasons for BHEC’s existence. “It was their hope that really spurred all of this because they want their stories to be told, and they wanted to assure that their stories would continue to be told,” Mollengarden said.

BHEC’s survivors’ archive includes more than 170 names, and Mollengarden invited the public to let BHEC know of survivors it has not documented or to provide additional information about the survivors listed. As the number of living survivors dwindles, the BHEC wants to do all it can to preserve and tell their stories – through the archive, through children of survivors telling their family’s stories, through others telling stories of survivors who have died.

“That is our goal, to continue to tell these stories because they won’t be around forever,” Mollengarden said. “These stories are so important.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

State business leaders expecting economic growth

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In the latest quarterly survey by researchers at The University of Alabama, business leaders in the state are feeling more encouraged about the economy than they have since the global pandemic began.

The UA Center for Business and Economic Research’s most recent Alabama Business Confidence Index shows that local business leaders have strong expectations for economic growth in the second quarter of 2021. The statewide business confidence index was 64.3, up more than eight points from the survey of the first quarter of 2021.

It’s one of the highest indexes ever and the most confident business leaders have been in the economy since the second quarter of 2019. It continues a steady recovery of confidence since the early days of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020, when the ABCI decreased to 50.5 and business leaders were uncertain of what the coming quarter would hold for the economy.

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An index over 50 indicates a positive forecast compared to the previous quarter, and the higher the number, the more confident the forecast. The statewide and national forecasts, along with industry-specific components like sales, profits, hiring and capital expenditures comprise the six indexes that combine to make the ABCI total.

“This outlook suggests that business leaders in Alabama are ‘shaking off the pandemic,’” said Susannah Robichaux, a socioeconomic analyst for the center. “When there is a higher ABCI, it signals that business leaders are feeling optimistic about the coming quarter, which is absolutely informing their own decisions about their businesses.”

Business leaders expect to see an increase in sales, profits, hiring and expenditures in the second quarter, according to the survey.

Firms of all sizes reported especially strong confidence in growth compared to last quarter, though small firms with fewer than 20 employees had the most confidence.

In a telling sign from the survey, business leaders feel strongly they will increase hiring in the second quarter compared to the first. Only 6.5% of respondents expected to decrease hiring, and the healthcare and social assistance industry is the only one of nine industry categories that expects to possibly decrease in hiring, hinting at expectations of a possible contraction after a year of industry expansion.

Overall, business leaders are more confident in the state economy than the national outlook, but confidence in both increased from the first quarter of 2021.

The breakdown of all the industry forecasts by sector can be seen in the statewide ABCI report on CBER’s website.

In addition to the statewide ABCI report, CBER also collects ABCI data to write individual reports for Alabama’s five major metro areas. These metro reports offer insight into the forecasts for each specific region.

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama)

2 hours ago

Great Red Snapper Count may have little impact on 2021 season

Last week’s meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (Gulf Council) Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) yielded mixed results for red snapper anglers.

The SSC voted to partially incorporate the Great Red Snapper Count, which estimated the red snapper population in the Gulf is three times higher than previous estimates, into the Gulf Council management process. However, that action may have little impact on the 2021 red snapper season.

“The Scientific and Statistical Committee is the science advisory panel for the Gulf Council,” said Scott Bannon, Director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division. “The purpose of the meeting was to review the Great Red Snapper Count, provide feedback and decide if it should be used in the interim analysis for red snapper this year and how it should be applied. The committee reviewed the Great Red Snapper Count and showed some areas that needed improvement. The researchers are going to go back and make some minor adjustments, but it won’t make a big change in the overall number. It just improves the report they have.”

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The Great Red Snapper Count estimated the abundance of red snapper in the Gulf at 110 million fish. Previous assessments from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries estimated the number of red snapper at 36 million fish.

“The committee voted on whether that data was the best science available for setting the overfishing limit,” Bannon said. “They voted that in. The number they chose for the overfishing limit was 25.6 million pounds. The Magnuson-Stevens Act states that you cannot exceed that overfishing limit or immediate changes will have to be implemented to prevent overfishing.”

Bannon said the previous overfishing limit was set at 15.5 million pounds, so the new recommended overfishing limit is a 10.1 million-pound increase. The committee then recommended that the acceptable biological catch (ABC) be set at 15.4 million pounds, which Bannon vigorously questioned.

“That’s a 10 million-pound difference from the overfishing limit,” he said. “That’s a 44-percent buffer, which I’m disappointed in. That is relatively unheard of in fisheries management. I am pleased with the recommended increase in the overfishing limit. I’m not pleased with the ABC.”

The SSC report will go to the Gulf Council and will be discussed at the next council meeting, set for April 12-15 via webinar. The Gulf Council will then set the annual catch limit (ACL) for allocations among the five Gulf states for the 2021 season.

“With only 300,000 new pounds available, that’s a negligible increase,” Bannon said. “That increase would potentially be applied to all of the sectors – commercial, charter and private anglers.”

Another hurdle for private anglers is NOAA Fisheries is pushing that the catch data from the Marine Recreation Information Program (MRIP) survey and state reporting systems be “calibrated,” which could significantly impact Alabama’s quota and reduce the number of fishing days for private recreational anglers.

“Our goal is to avoid calibration,” Bannon said. “With calibration, Alabama and Mississippi allocations would be cut in half.”

Under calibration alternatives, Alabama’s quota for red snapper could go from 1.12 million pounds in 2020 to 547,298 pounds in 2021.

“Naturally we didn’t agree with that,” Bannon said. “NOAA Fisheries said that was going to be required because the fishery may have met the overfishing limit in 2019. The catch for 2019 barely exceeded the 15.5 million-pound limit by 150,000 pounds. That is Gulf-wide in all sectors, including private anglers, for-hire and commercial, but with the new Great Red Snapper Count data, whether there was overfishing at all in 2019 is in question. Our goal at the upcoming Gulf Council meeting is to postpone any calibration until the Great Red Snapper Count is fully integrated into the stock assessment so that Alabama and Mississippi would fish at the same level we’ve fished for the previous couple of years under the EFP (Exempted Fishing Permit) and state management, which is around a million pounds.”

The MRIP surveys have considerably overestimated red snapper catches compared to Alabama’s Red Snapper Reporting System, known as Snapper Check.

“We say we landed about a million pounds, but the MRIP survey says we landed about 2.5 million pounds,” Bannon said. “We have a monitoring program that we feel is accurate, and we are harvesting at a sustainable level. The Great Red Snapper Count says there are 10 million red snapper off the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi. We’re not getting the access to those fish that we would like. Across the Gulf, the count says there are 110 million fish, so no state is really getting the access to the fish we think they should.”

For those not familiar with the Great Red Snapper Count, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby sponsored legislation to provide $10 million for an independent survey of the red snapper population in the Gulf. More than 20 scientists across the Gulf from the academic world participated in the survey.

“It was designed to look objectively at the red snapper abundance in the Gulf,” Bannon said. “It counted fish that are two years and older. The scientists developed a plan that utilized cameras, acoustic arrays and a robust tagging program. They actually identify fish. They see them, count them and get size estimates with lasers on the camera equipment.”

The scientists surveyed natural bottom, artificial reefs and uncharacterized bottom. The uncharacterized bottom had no structures or vertical relief. Surprisingly, the surveys found far more fish on uncharacterized bottom than expected.

At the upcoming Gulf Council meeting, Bannon said any Council recommendations could be overruled by NOAA Fisheries, but he plans to make the argument that the alternative plan of no action on calibration is the proper choice.

“We are not in fear of overfishing,” he said. “The overfishing limit is now 10 million pounds higher, so if we sustain the level we’re fishing, we’re not going to get anywhere near the overfishing limit. I am disappointed in some of the decisions made by the SSC. We have an objective assessment done by more than 20 experts in the field that says there are conservatively three times the number of red snapper, but we’re not seeing the benefit of that. The SSC decisions only apply to 2021. This will give the scientists more time to review the Great Red Snapper Count in depth, make some minor changes, and hopefully it will be incorporated into the next red snapper assessment that will conclude in 2023.”

Bannon also reminds anglers or concerned citizens that the Gulf Council meetings always allocate a time for public comment on Wednesdays, which will be from 1-4:30 p.m. on April 14 for the next meeting.

“I always encourage people to voice their opinions and concerns about the decisions being made,” he said. “The Gulf Council does consider public comment. They listen, sometimes ask questions and consider it in their decision making. I will assure the anglers of Alabama that we’re not trying to take away any fish from other states or any sector, but we’re going to try to ensure that private anglers have the access that they should to this abundant resource.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

16 hours ago

Alabama’s congressional leaders bash Biden’s proposed defense budget — ‘Talk is cheap, but defending our country is not’

President Joe Biden on Friday released his proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, and the leaders in Alabama’s congressional delegation are especially sounding alarm bells about Biden’s defense spending plans.

Fortunately, while the White House proposes a budget, it is up to Congress to annually fund the government, so there is still time for lawmakers to improve upon the Biden administration’s proposal. However, many legislative Democrats want a significantly smaller defense budget — potentially one that is cut by 10% year-over-year.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, will be perhaps the most powerful person in America this year when it comes to standing in the gap against gutting critical defense spending. Shelby is also the top Republican on Appropriations’ Defense subcommittee.

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Shelby, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Senate Select Committee on Intelligence vice chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released a lengthy joint statement on Friday in reaction to the Biden budget proposal.

“President Biden recently said, ‘If we don’t get moving, [China] is going to eat our lunch.’ Today’s budget proposal signals to China that they should set the table,” the Republican Senate leaders stated. “While President Biden has prioritized spending trillions on liberal wish list priorities here at home, funding for America’s military is neglected.”

They decried, “China’s military investments match its desire to out-compete America and hold our military forces at risk. President Biden’s defense spending cut doesn’t even keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the non-defense discretionary budget increases by almost 20 percent in this budget on top of the trillions of dollars in new non-national security programs the administration is intent on spending this year. If President Biden’s support for America’s military matched his zeal for spending at home, China would get nowhere close to overtaking us.”

“Talk is cheap, but defending our country is not,” Shelby and his colleagues concluded. “We can’t afford to fail in our constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense. To keep America strong, we must balance domestic and defense spending priorities. President Biden has said much about reaching across the aisle. Both parties should be able to agree that we must maintain America’s edge over China. We urge President Biden to work with us in a bipartisan manner to ensure that.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) expressed similar concerns in a statement to Yellowhammer News. Aderholt is a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations, a member of its Defense subcommittee and the dean of Alabama’s House delegation.

“China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are all maturing their military capabilities as fast as possible,” Aderholt commented. “Asking our Dept. of Defense to do with less money than last year, and also to engage in expensive green-energy programs, raises serious issues about whether our warfighters will have what they need when a conflict breaks out.”

While Shelby and Aderholt provide Alabama strength on the appropriations side of the equation, the state is well represented when it comes to defense authorization and policy, as well.

This includes Congressman Mike Rogers’ (AL-03) newfound service as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

The East Alabama congressman released a lengthy statement of his own on Friday bashing Biden’s proposed defense budget for FY22.

“The Biden administration has talked a big game towards China. Unfortunately, the release of their skinny budget today indicates it is just talk,” Rogers said.

“During his confirmation hearing, Secretary Austin acknowledged that the gap between the CCP and the United States military has ‘closed significantly’ and that ‘our goal will be to ensure that we expand that gap going forward.’ I’m not sure how that is possible when today’s budget fails to keep pace with inflation and cuts defense spending in terms of real dollars,” he lamented.

Rogers outlined, “The bipartisan, Congressionally mandated National Defense Strategy Commission recommended that ‘Congress increase the base defense budget at an average rate of three to five percent above inflation.’ That target has my full support. It also had Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks’s support when she was a commissioner and the recommendation was submitted to Congress. Unfortunately, the Biden administration is choosing to spend trillions on left wing priorities at the expense of our national defense.”

“This budget will impact our readiness, dampen our efforts to modernize our strategic weapons, limit our naval and projection forces, and prevent the latest innovations and enhancements from getting to our warfighters,” he concluded. “As I have said before, if we do not make the investments our military needs today, then we will not be able to defend our nation or our allies in the future. I hope to work with Congressional Democrats to undo the tremendous damage this budget will cause to our military.”

Another HASC member from Alabama, freshman Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-01), also made his displeasure clear with the Biden budget.

“President Biden has called for a drastic increase in domestic spending, but is putting our defense budget in danger,” stated the Coastal Alabama congressman. “The Biden Administration is all talk and no action when it comes to putting America first and strengthening our defenses. Now is the time to make critical investments in our military and ensure we have the best trained and best equipped fighting forces, rather than cutting defense spending and falling behind other global powers.”

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

16 hours ago

Draper’s Apollo heritage augmenting Dynetics’ modern, sustainable HLS that could land the next humans on the moon

NASA is expected in the coming weeks to select up to two prime contractors to continue competing to build the Human Landing System (HLS) that will eventually land the next man and the first woman on the moon through the Artemis program.

The agency last year selected three prime contractors to design a HLS: Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX.

Dynetics, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, is headquartered in Huntsville, and Blue Origin’s work on the program is also being centered in the Rocket City. Of course, Marshall Space Flight Center manages the HLS program for NASA, so the program is about as Huntsville-centric as it gets.

One of the key points Blue Origin has made publicly is the legacy of its team, which the company calls the “National Team” and includes the likes of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper — three storied American defense and aerospace contractors that helped guide the famed Apollo program.

However, an underreported aspect of the competition is that Draper is also a major part of Dynetics’ HLS team.

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One of the major stated benefits of Dynetics’ HLS proposal is the sustainability of the system. The Dynetics HLS has been intentionally designed to contribute to the sustainability of the Artemis program in three main ways: reusability, extensibility and supporting the development of a lunar economy. The company believes these three building blocks are vital to the goal of a long-term, sustainable presence on the moon — as well as future human exploration to deeper space, including Mars.

However, Dynetics’ enhanced public focus on sustainability is not to say that its HLS team does not bring significant flight heritage to the table; Dynetics itself has quickly become a “‘go-to’ propulsion provider for partners in both government and industry,” and Draper’s inclusion on the team especially underscores the diverse experience and expertise of the entire Dynetics team — which is also buoyed by the likes of Sierra Nevada Corporation and Maxar.

Yellowhammer News recently spoke with Kelly Villarreal, Space Systems senior program manager and HLS lead for the Dynetics team at Draper; Pete Paceley, principal director of Civil and Commercial Space Systems at Draper and head of Draper’s Huntsville office; and Kristina Hendrix, director of communications at Dynetics.

The discussion included talks about how Draper’s expertise that first landed humans on the moon through the Apollo program is set to be used in an evolved form for Artemis.

“It’s a thrill to be a part of the Dynetics Human Lander team,” said Paceley, an alumnus of Auburn University. “Going back to the moon is a big deal for Draper.”

He explained that Draper, originally part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was named for the late Charles Stark “Doc” Draper who is known as the father of inertial navigation. He was the founder and director of MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory, later renamed the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. That lab made the Apollo lunar landings possible through the Apollo Guidance Computer it designed for NASA as the agency’s first prime contractor for the program.

Draper — the company — was spun off a non-profit in the 1970s into the private sector.

“We like to say we’ve already landed on the moon six times — we have a rich heritage there,” advised Paceley in explaining that Draper provided the flight control computer, all of the software, and the guidance, navigation and control systems for Apollo. “And we’ve maintained that legacy… Draper brings a lot to the party.”

The company opened an office in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park in 2006, essentially right down the street from Dynetics’ base of operations.

“We’ve had a great relationship with Dynetics over the years on various programs,” Paceley noted, adding the companies have “very complementary capabilities.”

Just like it did for Apollo, Draper is bringing world-class navigation, guidance and flight control software and hardware to the Dynetics HLS team.

Villarreal reiterated Draper’s enthusiasm for being on the Dynetics HLS team and functioning as a “major contributor to the overall effort to return to the lunar surface.”

Draper’s Huntsville office, which employs about 20 people, largely works on NASA programs; another contribution Draper is making in the Rocket City is also on the Artemis program through the Marshall-managed Space Launch System (SLS). The company additionally supports the Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal and other Pentagon-driven national security work in the area.

While Draper has been there before, a major difference between Artemis and Apollo is that NASA wants to land on the lunar South Pole this time around rather than near the equator. This presents a unique and difficult challenge, which Draper is helping to solve.

“The angle of light from the Sun is very low,” Paceley outlined. “So you have a lot of shadows and dark spots. Being able to land safely is a big challenge for this program. We have to provide the capabilities to enable the astronauts landing safely, whether that’s particular sensors that we use to navigate with or with some synthetic vision to allow them to see the boulders, the craters, so they they can avoid those as the vehicle lands. The nice thing about where we are today is we did that 50 years ago on Apollo, but technology has come so much farther now in terms of computers and sensors and electronics — the solutions you can apply to that problem.”

Villarreal added, “One of the exciting things we’ve been able to provide to help visualize the tough landing situation is a lunar lander simulator that’s based at Dynetics.”

“What that does is loop in our guidance, navigation, control algorithm tied to hand controllers for users to specifically stand in the simulator and act as though they are landing the descent/ascent lander element while visually seeing a representation of the lunar surface projected up over a dome,” she said. “So it really brings home the challenges of that lighting situation.”

“Astronaut-pilots (during Apollo) like Neil Armstrong could look out the window, control the vehicle and decide where they wanted to land in a safe area,” Paceley remarked. “Now, there’s a lot more emphasis on autonomy. While the astronauts can take over and pilot the vehicle, we are putting in a lot more autonomy so that the vehicle can do much of the landing on its own — and even, if need be, could land on its own if there were not a pilot on board — and do so safely.”

Hendrix told Yellowhammer News that Draper has been great to partner with. Overall, including Draper, Dynetics in assembling its HLS team sought out “the best companies available” of all sizes.

“We’re just glad they’re a part of it,” she concluded.

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