May 2011
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Turner Includes Language in NDAA to Support: AFIT, AFRL, and Unmanned Aerial Systems

Legislation Contains Bevy of Provisions Key to Southwest Ohio

Washington D.C. – Congressman Mike Turner successfully included language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday which will have a far reaching impact on Southwest Ohio if approved by the full Congress and signed into law by the President. Turner’s amendments to the annual Defense Department bill include provisions which affect: leadership at the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Air Force Research Lab, and meeting the airspace needs for Unmanned Aerial Systems.

AFIT Leadership

“AFIT military leadership in order to maintain preeminence and relevance in the years ahead,” said Turner. “My legislation would provide that top level military leadership while simultaneously ensuring educational continuity by establishing a SES level Provost position,” stated Turner.

Turner’s language closely mirrors the leadership structure at the U.S. Navy operated Post Graduate School. The proposal allows for the Secretary of the Air Force to fill the top slot at AFIT with either an active duty Colonel or a retired Brigadier General or higher. This would ensure the AFIT retains the attention of top level leadership while providing the Secretary of the Air Force discretion as to filling the position with active duty or retired personnel. The Naval Post Graduate School is currently led by a Navy Vice Admiral, the Air Force equivalent of a Lieutenant General.

The language also creates a SES level Provost position to prevent against any disruptions in academic and institutional affairs that can be generated from regular changes in leadership. These options would ensure continuity in the Institute’s approach towards educating our nation’s military leaders while adhering to Secretary Gate’s proposal to eliminate the number of flag officers in our military.

AFRL Hiring Authority

“Our nation’s Defense Laboratories are experiencing both a critical hiring need and a severe shortage of engineers and scientists with advanced degrees. This language helps laboratories stay competitive with the commercial market and brings talented personnel into Department of Defense,” said Turner.

Specifically, Turner’s amendment eliminates the sunset provision of the Defense Laboratory hiring authority which he had placed in the FY09 NDAA. The expedited hire authority provided under Section 1108 applies to scientific and engineering positions which require an advanced degree.

The provision allows AFRL to waive some advertising and preference requirements, but maintains the requirement that the applicant meet all relevant qualifications. Since the enactment of the legislation, AFRL and the other defense laboratories have been able to reduce the hiring time by weeks and has become a critical tool of AFRL personnel management to hire the best scientific talent. A recent Defense Department report showed that “direct hire” generally cut the number of days it took to hire an applicant from 147 to 91.

Meeting Airspace Needs for Defense-Related UAS Research

“This amendment places the decisions on Unmanned Aerial Systems testing needs at the feet of the AFRL. These are experts who have pioneered the expanding field on unmanned flight. If signed into law by the President, AFRL will play a key role in integrating UAS into the National Airspace System,” noted Turner.

After Turner had included this same provision in the FY 09 NDAA, the House Armed Services Committee voted to include it once again. The committee noted that the availability of special use airspace is important to research related to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and the needs of our national defense. The proliferation of technology enabling the use of UAS represents a clear future threat to national security; however, lack of special use airspace to research detection techniques is a potential impediment to the nation’s ability to counter this emerging threat.

The committee encouraged discussions between the Air Force Research Laboratory to explore ways for the FAA and the Department of Defense to work together on problems related to integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. The committee’s approved bill with Turner’s language urges the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to place a high priority on meeting national defense needs for special use airspace related to UAS research, including addressing defense needs for special use airspace for research in “detect and destroy” technologies.

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