Russian Influence Dominates U.S. Space Effort

You can’t blame this one on Donald Trump, his campaign, or his White House.

While hours of airtime, inches of column space and untold numbers of online posts have focused on the role of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, what has gone largely overlooked is the ongoing influence of the Russian government and industry on American access to space.

Since 2011, when NASA closed the chapter on the Space Shuttle, the United States has been without a domestic means of launching astronauts into space. The capability gap has been filled by the Russians, who have sold seats aboard their launch vehicles to NASA so American access to the International Space Station could continue without severe interruption.

Competing efforts to bring human space travel capabilities back to the U.S. have hit delays, but offer hope that the nation’s reliance on Russian launches won’t be open-ended.

Aerospace giant Boeing Corporation is testing its Starliner capsule, a crew vehicle that from the outside looks like an updated sibling of the command/service module used in the Apollo program that put Americans on the moon. Upstart SpaceX, led by innovator and big dreamer Elon Musk, is testing Dragon 2, a manned capsule that will be lifted into space by a Falcon Heavy rocket, also a SpaceX product. Musk and his team hope to fly two passengers around the moon sometime in late 2018. Additionally, NASA’s own Space Launch System with the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft, is facing delays. Even with the delays, however, the space agency is studying the feasibility of putting humans on the very first test flight of the system.

Despite its promise, the Boeing entry into the effort to regain domestic manned-mission capabilities has a series flaw: the engines of the Atlas V launch rocket are made in Russia.

This isn’t a new problem.

Last year, the U.S. Air Force was directed to spend $540 million on Russian rocket engines for satellite launches. The RD-180 engines were bought for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. ULA is the primary Air Force contractor for satellite launches and since Boeing owns a stake in the company, so that’s why the Atlas V is the heavy lifter for the Starliner capsule that NASA is interested in.

NASA already relies on the Atlas V for some launches, but if the agency awards a manned space flight contract to Boeing instead of proceeding ahead with its own SLS, or betting on rising innovation over at SpaceX, it will mean that a firm with close ties to the Russian government will have an integral role in U.S. manned spaceflight. While some could argue that such an outcome at least reduces U.S. dependence on Russian space efforts, it doesn’t mean the nation is actually free to pursue its own space program without the consent of another power.

With the Air Force relying on Russian rocket engines to launch satellites that are vital to national security, NASA currently outsourcing manned spaceflight for American astronauts to Russia and relying on Russian rocket engines for domestic cargo launches, and Boeing relying on the same Russian engines to power its effort to get Americans back into space on American rockets, significant portions of the U.S. space effort are vulnerable to Russian politics.

A recent independent safety panel found flaws with Boeing’s reliance on the controversial Russian engines. According to an industry news source:

Starliner will initially launch with Atlas V, powered by her RD-180 main engine. As such, the certification issue is being worked on by Boeing, which is part of ULA.

“One of the top Boeing risks is the RD-180 engine certification. The engine has a long history, but it has been difficult to get detailed design information for certification,” added the ASAP [Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel] minutes.

The safety panel went on to blame the engine’s foreign provenance for the lack of design documentation.

Meanwhile at NASA, the agency is pondering whether or not it should spent $373 million to buy more seats aboard Russian launches. The deal would keep Russia in charge of delivering U.S. astronauts to space potentially until 2019. The Wall Street Journal reported in early March:

In an unusual twist, the latest seats eyed by NASA would be purchased from Boeing, which acquired them as part of a settlement with Russian space authorities in an unrelated legal dispute. But that fact isn’t likely to do much to insulate NASA from Capitol Hill criticism about problems ending reliance on Moscow.

Boeing stands to receive an average of nearly $75 million per trip, or about $8 million more per seat than those purchased directly from Russian entities.

So while Boeing is building a launch system that relies on Russian engines, it stands to turn a decent profit by selling to NASA seats it acquired on Russian launches.

If Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 election is an outrage, the country’s current vice grip over manned U.S. spaceflight should certainly merit scrutiny from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Alas, when powerful interests write campaign checks such investigations become less attractive.

Trump’s Respect for Andrew Jackson Matters

When President Donald Trump visited the grave of Andrew Jackson during a recent trip to Tennessee, some commentators recoiled at the thought that Trump, a populist who clearly believes in a strong, forceful chief executive, would find in Jackson an historical figure with which he could identify. The nation’s 7th president was a colorful, deeply flawed individual, not unlike the 45th occupant of the highest office in the land. But instead of worrying over Trump’s decision to pay homage to Jackson, honest observers should at least see the basic merit of the action.

Just days before he took office, Trump quite bluntly said that he had no use for heroes. The remarks came during a press availability with foreign reporters. “Well, I don’t like heroes, I don’t like the concept of heroes, the concept of heroes is never great,” Trump said before talking about how you can respect certain people (he cited his father) who have done good things.

The moment was a revealing one, and Trump skeptics rightly pointed out that the remarks sounded like they came from someone who didn’t spend a lot of time pondering history, the past, or weighing his actions in the context of what others in his position might do. It is possible the remarks were just another attempt by Trump to portray himself as a forward-looking, confident leader and did not represent any real philosophical outlook that denied the good in having heroes.

But one has to take the comments at face value. And on their face they revealed a leader who believes that he is capable of shaping history without holding it in overly high regard.

Fast forward to Trump’s actions at the Hermitage and his subsequent comment that “It was during the revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. Does that sound familiar?” The Daily Beast reports that Trump’s love of Jackson is relatively newfound and strongly influenced by his close advisers. In fact, the public comparison of Trump to Jackson appears to have first come from Trump boosters, with The Atlantic publishing a piece on the parallels weeks after the presidential election. The magazine named several Trump allies who promoted the comparison even before the election.

Trump’s willingness to pay public respect to an historical figure, even one as deeply flawed as Jackson, is a sign that on at least some level he is aware of the immense duties of his office. Only 45 people have ever held the office of President of the United States. There is no rulebook for how the job is to be done, and the only academic program of study that can prepare one for the task is a vigorous look at how different predecessors handled the awesome responsibility. History is hardly a predictor of the future, but it is a reasonable guide that offers real lessons for what did and did not work in similar situations in the past.

A cursory study of Jackson will reveal the political popularity he achieved by holding the elites and special interests accountable. It will also reveal the long-term folly of his policy toward Native Americans. Both are lessons that Trump could apply to contemporary challenges, from how to deal with illegal immigration (forced deportation of all illegal aliens likely won’t solve the problem) to how to rebuild the nation’s image abroad while expanding economic opportunity at home.

One must be careful to not assume that Trump’s homage to Old Hickory involves respect for the many flaws of the backwoods president. Michael Gerson, speechwriter to President George W. Bush, rightly summarized Jackson’s many shortcomings in a recent column criticizing Trump’s display of public respect for his distant predecessor. But Gerson also failed to recognize that it is possible to respect the positive qualities of complex historical characters while learning from their deepest and most tragic mistakes.

We should never be ashamed to judge a previous generation’s actions as wrong when they violate basic standards of morality, but we should never be so arrogant as to assume that we cannot learn something from those who have gone before. If Trump chooses to study Jackson and learn from his predecessor, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Time will tell what lessons were learned, but for now, the humility in recognizing that there are some lessons to learn is a commendable thing.

McMaster Pick a Nightmare for Russia

On Monday, President Donald Trump proved he’s not only capable of neutralizing a negative and potentially damaging narrative, but he’s also willing to make personnel changes that will force some of his loudest skeptics to reassess their criticism of his still-nascent administration.

To the casual observer, Trump’s pick of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his national security adviser is merely the continuation of a theme. McMaster is replacing retired Gen. Mike Flynn who left the Administration last week after anonymous leaks and his own decision to withhold information about conversations he had with Russian officials proved to be a politically toxic mix.

In replacing Flynn, a retired general, with McMaster, a currently serving three-star Army officer, Trump is doing more than just surrounding himself with the credibility of military professionals. His pick signals a potentially important evolution in his administration’s outlook on the world, the threats posed by various potential adversaries, and America’s response to both diplomatic and military challenges.

McMaster is now the fourth general officer to serve in the Trump administration. Secretary of Defense James Mattis rose to the highest ranks of military leadership while earning a reputation as a tough-talking, deep-thinking Marine Corps officer who was simultaneously comfortable debating academics and inspiring young grunts. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly is also a retired Marine general.

But while Mattis and Kelly have appeared to be natural fits in their respective jobs, with Trump arguing on the campaign trail for both increased defense spending (something Mattis has echoed) and tougher border security (a position shared by Kelly), McMaster is not so easily identified with a specific Trump policy aim.

In fact, if Flynn got into trouble for being too cozy with Russia, McMaster is the anti-Flynn.

While the nation was preoccupied with the electoral cage match last year, McMaster was busily leading a little talked about working group tasked with assessing Russian military and diplomatic capabilities and formulating a strategy for responding to Russian aggression. McMaster’s definition of the problem is fairly straightforward: While the U.S. military was busy fighting relatively low-tech enemies in the War on Terror, Russia was developing new military hardware and a sophisticated cyber threat that could be used to reassert its dominance at the expense of American interests.

McMaster’s Russia New Generation Warfare Study has earned the praise of his peers, but it is not likely the Kremlin will say nice things about it anytime soon. Nor is that surprising given that the study is considered by some insiders to be the kind of big, next-generation thinking that will help the military retain its edge over any would-be adversary.

“Flynn’s resignation is certainly a setback for the Russians,” opined The Atlantic last week. This week they could report that McMaster’s appointment is a nightmare for the Russians.

And it is not just the Russians who are likely to be worried about the pick. At a defense conference last year McMaster joined other Army leaders in talking about multi-domain battle, an emerging concept designed to focus Army priorities on defeating adversaries like China and Iran, who either have or are seeking to develop the ability to keep U.S. forces out of their preferred spheres of influence.

While McMaster has earned a reputation as a thoughtful strategist (he helped develop counter-insurgency doctrine during the war in Iraq), his outlook on war is helpfully grounded by his experience during the Gulf War in 1991. Then-Captain McMaster led his outnumbered tank troop to engage Iraqi tank and infantry formations in a brutal, fast-moving engagement that became known as the Battle of 73 Easting (so named after the map “easting” near the engagement area). The battle was so well fought that the actions of McMaster and his subordinates are studied to this day.

It’s not likely that McMaster will replicate his predecessor’s penchant for public flamboyance, but it is undoubtedly likely that as national security adviser he will provide deep and well-reasoned advice to the commander-in-chief.

Federally Funded Suicide Help Line Offers Post-Inauguration Advice

A federally funded suicide prevention resource is offering post-inauguration counseling for those struggling in the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is a project of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is currently running a Political Transition 2017 campaign to help “manage anxiety and stress” individuals “may be feeling related to the recent U.S. presidential election, inauguration, and transition.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also runs an effort that reaches out to veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. The 24/7 hotline that veterans can call is the same phone number that is listed for the post-election counseling effort.

For those still in denial or disbelief about the outcome of the presidential election or the recent – peaceful – transition power between the outgoing Obama Administration and incoming Trump Administration, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers these helpful tips:

Stick to Routines

Even if you don’t feel like going to work or working out like you usually do, stick to going as much as possible. Routines ground us in the here and now, and remind us of things within our control that do not have to change.

Seek Social Support

Talk about your thoughts and feelings with others, enjoy time to share experiences that can help you cope with the feelings, or distract you from them temporarily so you can take an “emotional breather.

Other “coping tips” include suggestions to “Limit your interaction with things that might aggravate your stress right now, like social media and television” and “Take compassionate, caring actions to support others, where you can.”

Alternatively, election and inaugural handwringers could accept the outcome of the election and realize that our Republic has survived far graver circumstances and far less competent administrations in the past.

Time for #NeverTrump to Die

On November 8, the #NeverTrump movement died – or at least it should have. With the election of Donald Trump, the movement premised on him not becoming president became extraordinarily irrelevant. Conservatives who joined the #NeverTrump cause out of conscience or deep seated skepticism of the candidate’s professed embrace of shared principles now risk becoming enablers of liberal ideology by continuing their anti-Trump cause. Anyone who participates in the #NeverTrump crusade post-Election Day would certainly appear to have much in common with the emotionally fragile liberal protesters who march on college campuses declaring that Trump is “not my president.”

Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States. We live in a democratic republic and the people have spoken at the ballot box.

I write this as someone who was #NeverTrump during the brutal GOP presidential primary, and from just before Iowa onward I backed the one Republican candidate who stood between Trump and the GOP nomination. In the days ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland I hoped that delegates would come to their senses and wage some sort of a floor fight that would deny Trump the nomination. Political parties are allowed to have raucous conventions. I predicted that if Trump was the nominee, he was the only person the Republican Party could nominate who could lose to Hillary Clinton.

I was wrong.

As Erick wrote earlier this week, it is time for conservatives to move on from the electoral politics of #NeverTrump and look for ways to constructively contribute to the policy and political debates that lie ahead. #NeverTrump represents the past, and the lows of this election cycle are worth putting behind us.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) was a leading member of the #NeverTrump movement, and already he has generously and graciously congratulated the Trump team on their win. “My family and I congratulate President-Elect Trump on his decisive victory, and we pray that he will lead wisely and faithfully keep his oath to a Constitution of limited government,” Sasse wrote in a Facebook post after Election Day.

This doesn’t mean that conservatives should stop holding Trump and his team accountable. Far from it. There may be policies that they propose, nominees they may forward to the Senate, and presidential actions that Trump may take that deserve a swift, strong, clear counter by conservatives. If and when those times come, conservatives have an obligation to propose a better way of doing things. It is not enough to cross our arms and declare “not my problem.”

As Jonah Goldberg – also a #NeverTrumper – pointed out in the hours after Trump’s win, “as an American I have every bit as much ownership of his presidency as anyone. And for that reason alone, I hope I’m proven wrong about all of my deep seated concerns and fears.”

Our collective political discourse is only a reflection of our individual civic involvement. That doesn’t mean that we all bear the responsibility of bad decision-making by government officials. It does mean that if we don’t like the tone of this election year, or if we are skeptical of how this new administration will act, we have an individual responsibility to rationally, thoughtfully and respectfully engage in political actions that would influence policy outcomes for the better.

Conservatives skeptical of Trump experienced something unique this election cycle. Suddenly the mainstream media, which long questioned the legitimacy of our views or the sanity of our perspectives, sought some of us out as sages who could impart words of wisdom to our Trump-supporting peers. The platform was welcome, the experience interesting, but make no mistake: media outlets generate views, readership and page clicks by controversy. Continuing to bask in the spotlight that came our way by virtue of our opposition to the Republican nominee, without offering substantive critiques of such media fabricated non-stories like Trump’s dinner without the press, or his possible request of security clearances for some of his children, only serves to empower the Left.

Many #NeverTrump folks argued before the election that citizenship comes before party membership. Now that the nation has spoken, that still remains true. As citizens we should want a Trump administration to be better than what many of us in the #NeverTrump movement imagined it would be (if we ever thought there would be one). It is our civic duty to stop complaining and start doing our part to constructively advance the principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, limited government and a strong national defense.

Speaker Paul Ryan Paid for Trump’s Wis. Ground Game

On Tuesday night, Sean Hannity of Fox News was sure, absolutely sure, that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would not return to the speaker’s chair when Donald Trump takes office in January. “Paul Ryan is not going to be the speaker of the House in January,” Hannity told viewers. “He’s not going to be speaker.”

But while Trump briefly flirted with the idea of endorsing Ryan’s carpet-bagging opponent in Wisconsin’s August primary, he ultimately endorsed Ryan and has gone on to benefit from Ryan’s generosity with campaign cash. According to a review of campaign finance reports, Paul Ryan underwrote the Republican ground game that helped Donald Trump win Wisconsin and helped Sen. Ron Johnson (R) win an upset in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

As of mid-October, Ryan for Congress, the Speaker’s personal campaign committee, had given $1 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin to fund voter turnout efforts across the state. In August, Ryan for Congress gave Wisconsin Republicans half a million dollars. That was followed by a $250,000 contribution in September and a final $250,000 contribution in mid-October.

In contrast, Trump Victory gave only $667,932.04 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Trump Victory is the joint fundraising account established by the RNC and the Trump campaign to accept contributions well in excess of what individual campaign committees can accept. The money is then frequently spent on voter turnout operations to boost the party’s candidates up and down the ballot.

Ryan’s contribution to his state party’s ground game is hard to overestimate. Wisconsin hasn’t elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in a presidential year since 1980, and hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1984.

Other party entities left Wisconsin Republicans – notably Sen. Ron Johnson – for dead weeks before the election. The National Republican Senatorial Committee canceled television ad buys for Johnson just over a month out from Election Day. But Ryan used his Congressional campaign to write another quarter million dollar check to the Republican ground game, and then spent the final days of the race touring the state with Johnson.

Johnson noticed that his national party abandoned him, even as he refused to stop working for the win. His hard work paid off and on Wednesday morning he told a Milwaukee radio host that since the NRSC pulled its support, he felt he owed nobody in Washington anything.

Some high-profile Trump backers, chief among them Ann Coulter and Brietbart.com, believe Paul Ryan needs to go, but Ryan’s hard work in Wisconsin not only helped the state’s electoral votes go to Trump-Pence, but also helped assure at least a slim GOP Senate majority. That’s no small achievement given the fact that the Trump-Pence team had zero ground game of their own in Wisconsin and gave less money than Ryan did to the general GOP effort through the state party.

At a press availability Wednesday morning, Ryan dismissed a question about his primary challenger and Trump’s potential backing of him, and sounded optimistic about working with a new Republican administration to pass conservative reforms into law.

Retired Air Force Officer Blasts Clinton While in Uniform

In an egregious violation of Department of Defense policy, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel has recorded an ad critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while appearing to wear a flight suit complete with unit patches and rank insignia. Wendy Rogers is a three-time Republican Congressional candidate in Arizona, and she most recently lost the GOP primary in the state’s 1st Congressional District in August. Rogers is also a retired Air Force pilot who was one of the first female pilots in the service.

“As a pilot in the United States Air Force, I was entrusted with classified information. We were always taught that you don’t send or receive classified information through unsecured channels,” Rogers says before going on to criticize Hillary Clinton for using a private, unsecured e-mail server to send and receive classified information.

Rogers was also taught that you can’t mix your uniform and politics.

A Department of Defense prohibition on wearing one’s military uniform while communicating a partisan political message is still very much in effect. A 2008 directive from the DOD explicitly outlines what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to political activity by active duty, reserve component and retired military personnel.

“Subject to any other restrictions in law, a member of the Armed Forces not on active duty may

[engage in political activity] provided the member is not in uniform and does not otherwise act in a manner that could reasonably give rise to the inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement,” DOD Directive 1344.10 reads.

The ad Rogers appears in is sponsored by Veterans for a Strong America, a group that has raised about $87,713 according to the Federal Election Commission. While the ad does not explicitly tell viewers who to vote for or against, the message certainly allows viewers to make the “inference,” to barrow from the DOD directive, that they – like Lt. Col. Rogers – should not vote for Clinton.

Rogers could try to skirt the issue of wearing her uniform by claiming that she is a retiree. But the DOD directive also includes guidance for those who have left military service. Paragraph 4.3.1.1 explains that while it is okay for former service members to mention their rank and service, “they must clearly indicate their retired or reserve status.”

Nothing on Rogers’ uniform indicates her retired status, nor does the scroll at the bottom of the screen disclose that she is retired. Her rank insignia appear on her uniform, and she identifies herself as ” Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers” without mentioning that she is retired.

Candidates and other public figures who are veterans may mention their current or previous military rank and service, and may include video clips or pictures of themselves in uniform, as long as they do not appear in uniform while talking in the ad, and as long as they identify that they are retired (if that is the case). They must also include a disclaimer that pictures or videos used do not constitute an endorsement by the Department of Defense. Rogers did include that mandatory disclaimer, but that still doesn’t authorize her to actually wear what appears to be a uniform while delivering a partisan or explicitly political message on camera.

In social media posts and on her campaign website, Rogers appears to pose with her Air Force jacket while wearing civilian clothes. She could try to say that she was wearing civilian clothes that couldn’t be seen in the ad, but if she wasn’t in uniform at all, she wouldn’t have had to include the disclaimer (which still doesn’t justify her actions).

By abusing her military rank and uniform, Rogers is helping fuel the call by some that senior military leaders always avoid partisan politics once they leave military service. That would be both a bad idea, and a violation of a long-standing American tradition of military leaders participating in politics and public policy once they have left uniformed service. But when military leaders like Rogers violate the trust of their oath by appearing in uniform to make partisan statements, they do threaten the civil-military relationship that respects the power of voters to elect civilian leaders who oversee the nation’s military.

Indiana Could Elect a Clinton to the US Senate

Evan Bayh is a walking ethics disaster of Clintonian proportions.

The former U.S. senator and governor has been the Democratic Party’s best hope to capture the open Senate seat in Indiana this year. After muscling out a former Democratic congressman who the party primary, Bayh immediately rocketed ahead of his Republican opponent, GOP Congressman Todd Young, in the polls.

According to FiveThirtyEight, and as outlined elsewhere on The Resurgent, Indiana is still a likely Democratic pick-up on election night even as polls show the race tightening, and Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton at the top of the ballot. A late breaking poll released Friday morning and sponsored by local television station WTHR showed Young beating Bayh, 46% to 41%, with 7% of voters undecided and the remaining claiming they will vote for the Libertarian Party candidate.

A series of ethics problems in Bayh’s background have come to light or resurfaced over the course of the campaign, bedeviling his ability to portray himself as the candid, honest and moderate Democrat Indiana voters elected in the past. A long-time ally of the Clintons, Bayh even endorsed Hillary Clinton in Indiana’s hotly contested 2008 Democratic presidential primary, his association with scandal-ridden political figures seems to be evolving into his own biography.

On Thursday, POLITICO broke the news that Bayh used taxpayer money to stay at hotels mere miles from his Indiana condo when he visited the state in 2009. Bayh represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate until January 2011.

“Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh used taxpayer money to stay at hotels in Indianapolis for 14 nights in 2009 despite owning a condominium there, charging more than $2,000 in travel and lodging expenses to his official account, according to his internal schedule and Senate disbursement records.”

Senate rules, POLITICO pointed out, prohibit lawmakers from using taxpayer money for lodging expenses when they are within 35 miles of their “duty station,” defined as their in-state residence during Congressional recess or adjournment and their Washington residence during Senate sessions.

Despite claiming residence at an Indianapolis condo, Bayh never stayed there in 2009, according to POLITICO, and according to an AP investigation he also never stayed there in 2010.

When spending taxpayer money on hotels in his “home” state, Bayh’s preference was for a “quiet room away from the elevators and ice machine” according to an official schedule quoted by POLITICO. Additionally, Bayh liked his room to have extra pillows.

In October, NPR spoke with people who live near Bayh’s condo and found that his neighbors never see him around. Bayh himself even forgot where he lives, “Bayh misstated the address of his Indianapolis condo on local TV news about a month into his contest,” NPR reported.

Another investigation into Bayh’s background found him spending the better part of his final year in office using his Senate connections to find a lucrative private sector job for his post-Senate career. While accepting undisclosed financial favors from one special interest, Bayh also cast votes that directly related to the interests of some of the potential employers he spoke with during that year. Bayh even used taxpayer money to fund some of his job-hunting/networking excursions during his final months in office.

If Bayh wins his race on Tuesday, Indiana voters will be represented in the U.S. Senate by someone whose ethics are eerily similar to those of Hillary Clinton.