The White House on Tuesday threated to veto the House’s $576 billion defense spending billion primarily over the measure’s use of $15.7 billion from DOD’s war fund for base budget requirements including readiness, increased end strength and modernization.The Office of Management and Budget’s Statement of Administration Policy criticizes the maneuver for shortchanging funding for overseas operations as well as for undermining last October’s two-year budget deal that lifted the spending cap for defense and non-defense programs by equal amounts.The fiscal 2017 spending bill, H.R 5293, would provide $517.1 billion for the base budget and $58.6 billion for the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account. But it allocates $15.7 billion from the uncapped OCO account for base requirements the administration did not request, causing it to run out by the end of April.“Shortchanging wartime operations by $16 billion would deplete essential funding for ongoing operations by the middle of the year, introducing a dangerous level of uncertainty for our men and women in uniform carrying out missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere,” OMB said.By using some of the reallocated funds to support higher end strength levels than requested, the funding maneuver would undermine the Pentagon’s effort to restore readiness, according to the statement.“This would also invite a significant, unacceptable risk of creating a future hollow force, in which force structure exists, but the resources to make it ready do not follow,” OMB said.The statement also criticized the measure for not supporting many of the Pentagon’s reforms that shed unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead, balance growth in military compensation and modernize military health care. One of those reforms is a round of base closures in 2019, which the bill prohibits by not including $3.5 million the administration requested to prepare for a new BRAC.“By forcing the department to spread its resources more thinly, excess infrastructure is one of the principal drains on the department’s readiness, which the committee recognizes as a major concern,” OMB stated.The House began debate on the spending measure late Tuesday. Dan Cohen AUTHOR
17 Photos Share your voice A 23rd-century tourist guide to the galaxy Curiosity rover’s discovery is still exciting — it just doesn’t help us confirm life on Mars. Seán Doran/Laura Martínez/CNET Curiosity, NASA’s Mars rover, has had a busy weekend. After detecting the highest levels of methane yet seen on Mars last weekend, NASA put a pause on the rover’s other science activities to follow up on the discovery. On Monday, data from Curiosity’s subsequent experiment filtered back to NASA and the spike in methane levels had disappeared, dropping to background levels.”A plume came and a plume went,” said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator overseeing Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, during a NASA town hall event at the Astrobiology Science Conference on Monday. “We’re very confident of the measurement.”As the news of Curiosity’s startling finding broke over the weekend, many suggested the high methane could hint at the possibility of life on Mars. Methane is an important molecule on Earth and many living organisms excrete it, including microbes.Mahaffy explained that Curiosity had detected an unusually high level of methane last Wednesday during a routine experiment which tests the concentration of molecules in the atmosphere. The data came back on Thursday and showed a methane level of 21 parts per billion — around three times higher than had ever been seen before. Thus, Curiosity’s weekend plans were scrapped to run the experiment again.”The methane plume went away … it’s back down now to below 1 part per billion,” Mahaffy said, noting the measurement is consistent with what has previously been seen on Mars. NASA cautioned as the news broke over the weekend that the methane detection appears to be from a “transient plume” and Curiosity is not outfitted with the appropriate instruments to tell us whether the plume is biological or geological in origin.What does that mean for life on Mars? Well, not a lot. Although the original finding was confirmed, we’re no closer to discovering its source right now — that will be up to some of the spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet and future Mars missions. Moreover, the methane spike is certainly an unusual phenomenon but it has been seen by scientists before.”The methane mystery continues,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA, in a statement. “We’re more motivated than ever to keep measuring and put our brains together to figure out how methane behaves in the Martian atmosphere.” Comment 1 Sci-Tech Tags NASA
Rooppur power plant illustrationDhaka and Moscow have signed a protocol to bring amendments to an agreement signed by both sides on development of Rooppur nuclear power plant, reports UNB.On sideline of the 62nd General Conference of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) being held in Vienna Bangladesh and Russia signed the protocol on 17 September.In a statement on Tuesday, Russian state atomic energy agency Rosatom said the protocol was signed to bring in some amendments in the intergovernmental agreement signed on 2 November, 2010 on partnership in construction of a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.It also said Bangladesh can now involve Russia in developing physical protection systems for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.Architect Yeafesh Osman, minister for science and technology, government of Bangladesh and Alexey Likhachev, director general of Rosatom signed the protocol on behalf of their respective governments.The protocol provides for the possibility of involving a specialised Russian company in designing and installation of physical protection system for the main and auxiliary facilities of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.The protocol also includes the clause saying that all the safety and security measures to ensure physical protection of the nuclear power plant to be taken in accordance with the requirements and guidelines of IAEA.Rooppur NPP with two VVER-1200 reactors, each of 1,200 MW capacities is being constructed by Atomstroyexport (ASE), engineering division of Rosatom under strict monitoring by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA).Rooppur Nuclear Power Project (RNPP) with two VVER-1200 reactors, each of 1,200 MW capacity is being constructed according to Russian design, at Ishwardi of Pabna district, 160 km from Dhaka. In accordance with the general contract signed on 25 December, 2015 Atomstroyexport (Engineering Division of Rosatom) is implementing the project as the general contractor.The Russian VVER-1200 reactors that are selected for the first NPP in Bangladesh, was successfully set up at Unit No 1 of Novovoronezh NPP-2, said the statement.