September 27, 2021

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Caltech Alum Robert Behnken Aboard Historic Demo-2 Launch

20 min read

The SpaceX Crew Dragon flight with NASA’s Behnken and Douglas Hurley marks the first launch of American astronauts on an American-made rocket from American soil in nearly a decade.


After lifting off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A at 3:22 EDT (12:22 PDT) on May 30, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken docked with the International Space Station about 19 hours later. As joint operations commander of the mission, Robert Behnken is responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. A colonel in the United States Air Force, he flew on two space shuttle missions and logged more than 708 hours in space – more than 37 hours during six spacewalks.

To earn his masters and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Behnken also logged many hours at Caltech, which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA. You can read more about his background in this NASA biography and see more images of his career in this gallery. This 2010 Caltech profile captures Behnken before his final shuttle flight, and in this 2014 Q&A, Behnken shares details on his background and what it’s like to be an astronaut.

You can learn more about the day’s events and viewing platforms here.

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    Congress has appropriated billions of dollars for equipment repair, replacement, and recapitalization, collectively known as equipment reset. Because of the potential for equipment reset costs to affect the Department of Defense's (DOD) future budget requirements and related readiness concerns, GAO initiated this review under the Comptroller General's authority. GAO's objectives were to determine the extent to which the Army and Marine Corps (1) track and report equipment reset expenditures in a way that confirms that funds appropriated for reset are expended for that purpose and (2) can be assured that their reset strategies will sustain equipment availability while meeting ongoing operational requirements. GAO reviewed equipment reset policies and analyzed related budget data.Although the Army and Marine Corps track and report equipment reset expenditures in the operation and maintenance accounts in detail, they do not report detailed equipment reset expenditures within the procurement accounts in a way that confirms that funds appropriated for reset are expended for that purpose because the DOD Financial Management Regulation does not require them to specifically report procurement expenditures for reset in detail. As directed by the Conference Report accompanying DOD's appropriations act for 2007, the Army and Marine Corps report detailed reset obligations and expenditures in their operation and maintenance accounts. While the Army and Marine Corps track reset expenditures and obligations in detail within the procurement accounts, they do not report those expenditures at the same level of detail as with the operation and maintenance accounts because they are not legally required do so. Neither the Army's nor the Marine Corps' monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Reports identify the types of equipment at the subactivity group level, such as aircraft or vehicles. Until the Army and Marine Corps are required to report the obligation and expenditure of funds appropriated for reset in the procurement accounts at a more detailed level, Congress will not have the visibility it needs to exercise effective oversight and to determine if the amount of funding appropriated for equipment reset has been most appropriately used for the purposes intended. The Army and Marine Corps cannot be assured that their reset strategies will sustain equipment availability for deployed units as well as units preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan while meeting ongoing operational requirements because neither the Army's nor the Marine Corps' reset implementation strategies target shortages of equipment on hand and prioritize equipment needs of units preparing for deployment over longer-term modernization goals. While the Army's Force Generation implementation strategy and reset implementation guidance state that the goal of reset is to prepare units for deployment and to improve next-to-deploy units' equipment-on-hand levels, the Army's reset strategy is based on resetting equipment that it expects will be returning to the United States in a given fiscal year and not on targeting shortages of equipment for units preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, the Marine Corps' reset goal is to ensure that the Corps is equipped to perform both ongoing operations and future missions; however, over 80 percent of its reset budget is for procurement of equipment that will not be available for many months. Units can continue to report significant shortages during their training cycles that affect their ability to train. Thus, the services may be sacrificing short-term equipment needs for longer-term modernization goals. Until the services' reset strategies target shortages of equipment needed to equip units preparing for deployment and give priority to those units over longer-term needs, the Army and Marine Corps will be unable to minimize operational risk by ensuring the needs of deploying units can be met.
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  • Cyber Diplomacy: State Should Use Data and Evidence to Justify Its Proposal for a New Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of State (State) did not demonstrate that it used data and evidence to develop its proposal for establishing a new Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET). In response to GAO requests for such data and evidence, State provided GAO with briefing slides outlining different options for the new bureau and an action memo, approved by the Secretary of State. The memo recommended that CSET focus on cyberspace security and the security aspects of emerging technologies and report to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, while the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) would continue to have responsibility for digital economy issues. However, State did not explain how it would address any challenges associated with the decision on CSET's organizational placement. For example, the memo did not address how State would coordinate internally on the cybersecurity aspects of digital economy policy issues with cyber diplomacy functions split between CSET and EB. The memo also did not specify how State would develop consolidated positions and set priorities for State's international cyberspace efforts, given the separation of these issues. Moreover, neither the briefing nor the action memo contained analyses supporting the additional details laid out in State's 2019 notification to Congress on CSET, including support for proposed resource allocations for the new bureau. Without developing data and evidence to support its proposal for the new bureau, State lacks assurance that its proposal will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources for the bureau to achieve its intended goals. State needs to develop these areas further to better ensure the success of any new organizational arrangement. The United States and its allies are facing expanding foreign cyber threats as international trade, communication, and critical infrastructure become increasingly dependent on cyberspace. State leads U.S. government international efforts to advance the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace. The Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2019 (H.R. 739, 116th Cong.), co-sponsored by 29 members of Congress, proposed the establishment of a new office within State that would have consolidated responsibility for digital economy and internet freedom issues, together with international cybersecurity issues. While the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported out this bill in March 2019, the full House of Representatives did not consider the bill prior to expiration of the 116th Congress. State subsequently notified Congress in June 2019 of its plan to establish CSET, with a narrower focus on cyberspace security and emerging technologies. On January 7, 2021, State announced that the Secretary had approved the creation of CSET and directed the department to move forward with establishing the bureau. However, as of the date of this report, State had not created CSET. GAO was asked to review State's efforts to advance U.S. interests in cyberspace. This report examines the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET. GAO reviewed available documentation and interviewed State officials. To determine the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET, GAO assessed State's documentation against a relevant key practice for agency reforms compiled in GAO's June 2018 report on government reorganization. The Secretary of State should ensure that State uses data and evidence to justify its current proposal, or any new proposal, to establish the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies to enable the bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources to achieve its goals. While State disagreed with GAO's characterization of its use of data and evidence to develop its proposal for CSET, it agreed that reviewing such information to evaluate program effectiveness can be useful. State commented that it has provided GAO with appropriate material on its decision to establish CSET and has not experienced challenges in coordinating cyberspace security policy across the department while the CSET proposal has been in discussion. State concluded that this provides assurance that CSET will allow the new bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources. The documents State provided in response to GAO's requests, including a set of briefing slides and an action memo to the Secretary, did not sufficiently demonstrate that it used data and evidence in developing its proposal. In addition, State's comment that it has not experienced coordination challenges in recent years is not sufficient evidence that the potential for such challenges does not exist. Without evidence to support the creation of the new bureau, State lacks needed assurance that the bureau will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources to achieve its intended goals. For more information, contact Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130 or MazanecB@gao.gov, or Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov.
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