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DHS Developments Part II: Coast Guard – Modernization Programs and Service Priorities 

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National security cutter Bertholf, EADS HC-144, and H-65 helicopter

The US Coast Guard (USCG) received $10 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2015, $435.9 million above the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget request. The FY 2015 budget, in conjunction with the newly released Navy maritime strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, provides insight towards future USCG priorities, procurement programs, and sought after capabilities and technologies. 

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Developments in DHS: Part I – Improving Border Security

In early March, Congress passed a $39.7 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is $400 million dollars greater than the enacted FY 2014 levels.  Most components of DHS received a funding increase, but the FY 2015 budget prioritizes a series of initiatives to strengthen border security through hiring new personnel, developing new biometric identification technologies, and supporting previous efforts to improve border infrastructure. Part II of this series on the FY 2015 DHS budget will detail significant increases in the capability of the Coast Guard as a result of the FY 2015 budget, as well as trends within the agency.

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CBP MQ-9 "Reaper" UAV

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Upcoming UAS Regulations

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DJI Phantom-1 sUAS

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking to overhaul laws pertaining to the use of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), classified as aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, within the next year. The released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) stipulates measures relating to the operation of non-recreational sUAS in terms of height restrictions, aircraft registration, daytime flight restrictions, operator certification, and line of sight restrictions. The NPRM first step in what is likely to be a yearlong process before enforcement of new regulations begins. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, within the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), is conducting a ninety day review of the sUAS NPRM (Colborn, 2015). The OMB has indicated both the FAA and sUAS community lack adequate safety data.

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FY 2016 Budget Request Part II – Cyber Security Developments and Budget

The President’s FY 2016 budget includes $14 billion for cyber security funding across all federal agencies, including $5.5 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD).  The proposed budget would increase cyber defense spending by ten percent over the enacted FY 2015 budget levels, which is higher than the overall proposed DoD budget increase of seven percent. The increased cyber defense funding within the FY 2016 budget is part of a larger effort by the Federal Government to bolster the nation’s cyber defenses. Other steps taken toward this goal include: the development and integration of new software and systems, increasing the staff of US Cyber Command, Executive Order 13691, and the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). 

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FY 2016 Budgetary Analysis – Part I

Earlier in February, the Obama Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD) with a base budget of $534 billion and an overseas operations contingency (OCO) budget of $51 billion. The President’s budget submission does not account for sequestration, which imposes a base budget cap of $499 for the DoD and does not affect the OCO budget. A strong consensus exists among defense and budgetary analysts that Congress is unlikely to repeal the Budget Control Act (BCA) in FY 2016. House Armed Services Committee Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) remarked, “I fully expect that Congress will again fight proposals to allow the Department of Defense to deal with the damaging effects of sequestration. We have seen this act before.” 

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RAND Report on Military Caregivers

The RAND Corporation recently published a groundbreaking report, Hidden Heroes America's Military Caregivers, which depicts the immense scope of military caregiver work in the United States as well as detailing the shortfalls of current veteran’s care policies and programs. The study distinguishes between healthcare providers and military caregivers, with the latter group assisting with activities related to daily living, rather than diagnosing or prescribing treatment. RAND estimates that 5.5 million military care givers support at least 3.8 million disabled veterans nationwide with roughly 20% of military caregivers assisting post-9/11 veterans. This article will provide a summary of the report’s key findings with respect to military caregivers and the efficacy military caregiver related of Government programs. 

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SO/LIC Symposium Highlights

The National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) recently hosted its 26th annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) Symposium and Exhibition. The three day event hosted several notable speakers including: General Joseph L. Votel - Commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) - former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Lieutenant General Marshall B. Webb, Commander - NATO Special Operations Headquarters. The event covered topics such as the challenges related to combating ISIL and a more assertive Russia, as well the increasing demand for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the growing desire for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. 

The threat posed by ISIL was at the centerpiece of many discussions between SO/LIC event speakers and panelists. General Votel stated that at least 19,000 foreign fighters have surged into Iraq and Syria from over 90 countries. Votel further added that SOCOM has been closely observing ISIL’s operations in North Africa. Similarly, Lieutenant General Flynn offered a stark appraisal of the threat posed by ISIL, and cautioned that the ongoing international effort to defeat the group would likely last decades. 

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State of the Union & Expected Legislative Activity

Of all the measures outlined in the President’s latest state of the union address, the three measures below are the most likely to pass the Republican controlled Congress. 

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F/A-18F Super Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 22 operating from the USS Carl Vinson in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Fenaroli

1.  Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)

During his address, President Obama asked the Congress to pass an AUMF specific to combating ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The President has been in consultation with members of Congress with respect to a new AUMF since late December of 2014, and  Speaker of the House John Bohner has indicated a vote will be held on the AUMF by spring of 2015 (Bennett, 2015). A point of contention between Congressional Republicans and Democrats in negotiating an AUMF is the level of discretion the bill will afford to the President, particularly the measures that would prohibit the deployment of ground troops.

The ISIL related AUMF will greatly augment the President’s legal justification for Operation Inherent Resolve, which has been previously justified by the nearly 14 year old AUMF passed after September 11th 2001. Since combat operations in late 2014, the US has launched over 1,800 airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq at a total cost of $1.2 billion. 

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DoD Seeks Significant EHR Overhaul

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The Department of Defense (DoD) is in the midst of selecting a vendor to overhaul its electronic health record (EHR) systems, which facilitate the transfer of information pertaining to patient’s medical history, conditions, prescriptions, and other data across multiple healthcare providers over time. The Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) program is projected to cost $11 billion through the year 2023. DHMSM will replace the DoD’s existing EHR system, the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA), as well as elements of the Theater Medical Information Program-Joint (TIMP-J) and the inpatient Composite Health Care System. When DHMSM launches in 2017, it will become the largest EHR system in the United States, with more than 9.6 million patients associated with over 400 hospitals (Brewin, 2014).

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Big Data Developments within NIH

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Despite the relatively flat budget in recent years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is undergoing changes which will better equip the agency to collect and analyze large biomedical data sets. The cancelation of the NIH’s National Children’s Study (NCS) and the continued investment in the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative is indicative of the agency’s efforts to adapt towards recent technological advancements in big data over older more conventional means of collecting biomedical data. 

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