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US airstrike blocks ISIS fighters evacuated in deal with Lebanon
WASHINGTON A U.S. warplane bombed a bridge and cratered a road in Syria to block the movement of Islamic State fighters who were being evacuated in a controversial deal that was hatched with Lebanon, Hezbollah and ISIS, according to Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve. The convoy is "no longer moving east," Dillon said, and the coalition's goal was achieved. Agence-France Presse was first to break the news of the strike on social media. , Buses carrying hundreds of Islamic State militants and their families arrived in eastern Syria on Tuesday following a negotiated evacuation from the Lebanon-Syria border, where the U.S.-backed Lebanese army deployed for the first time in years. The convoy included roughly 20 vehicles and upward of 200 ISIS fighters, Dillon said, citing open-source reporting. , If the convoy resumes moving eastward, Dillon said, the U.S.-led coalition will target the convoy again in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict. , But, there are civilians and family members among the ISIS fighters, and if the coalition can properly discriminate between the two they will target the ISIS terrorists. Lebanon launched a military operation a little over a week ago targeting ISIS militants on the Syria-Lebanon border. A ceasefire was declared shortly thereafter and a deal was hatched between ISIS fighters and Lebanon to move the militants toward the ISIS stronghold of Deir Ez Zour in the Euphrates River Valley area of Syria, according to The New York Times. , Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, That deal was strongly opposed by U.S. and Iraqi officials. Islamic State militants and their families began leaving a border area between Lebanon and Syria on Monday as part of a controversial negotiated deal with the extremist group to end its presence there, Lebanese and Syrian media reported. "The coalition, we are not party to this agreement between Lebanon, Hezbollah and ISIS," Dillon told the New York Times. "Their claim of fighting terrorism rings hollow when they allow known terrorists to transit territory under their control. ISIS is a global threat, and relocating terrorists from one place to another is not a lasting solution.", Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS, took to social media to blast the deal. "Irreconcilable ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across Syria to the Iraqi border without Iraq's consent," he posted on Twitter. "Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling caliphate.'"
Soldiers shooting artillery off ships Tell it to the Marines
Some Arty soldiers are about to get their sea legs. Soldiers will fire Army artillery and rockets from the decks of Navy ships this summer in the largest maritime exercise in the world. For the first time last year, Marines successfully fired High Mobility Rocket Systems from the deck of the amphibious assault ship Essex. That success was a first salvo in work to integrate fires between the two forces and find ways to use their equipment in the near-shore fight. At that time, the Marines also asked industry to submit proposals for a mobile coastal missile defense system so that once they get ashore then can fire back to the sea. But the Army's partnering with the Navy, especially with artillery pieces, is a new effort altogether, though not without warning. The cross-domain fires portion, or bringing various fires from long-range missiles down to close-range mortars from all the assets, regardless of service branch, has been a part of the Army's multidomain battle concept for at least the past year. But news specific to the artillery portion and soldiers on ship decks was recently reported from an interview by Warrior Maven with Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Army Times Daily News Roundup, "The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new," Ferrari said. And that's going to happen at the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific exercise, scheduled for late June. The multidomain concept seeks all services to work jointly in ultra fast-paced battles of future conflict. To strike enemies quickly and respond before their own systems are targeted they must bring all the guns to the fight. Artillery and short-range rockets supplement the longer-range fires of naval missiles currently aboard ships, covering potential gaps closer to the coast. The cross-domain fire teams are in experiment mode now, bringing units from elements of ground combat, cyber, air defense and artillery to maneuver together rather than large formations of a single firepower such as three artillery battalions, Ferrari said.
How the US dropped more munitions in Afghanistan this year than it has since the height of the war
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of this year than during the same time period in 2011 a time widely considered the height of the war there. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down U.S. troops across the country's remote villages and looks like it relies increasingly on an intelligence network grounded in technical capabilities rather than human interactions. Numbers released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command document 1,186 munitions expended by aircraft in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released. Those weapons releases include both manned and unmanned aircraft. The Pentagon has said the increase in kinetic air operations is part of a scheme to degrade the Taliban's finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are known to tax. This drug lab bombing campaign has been touted by military leadership as a new, innovative approach to defeating the Taliban. But that's not the only difference between the old war and the new. During 2011, the number of U.S. troops in-country hovered just below 100,000. As of September 2017, that number was reportedly around 15,000. With more than six times the number of troops at the height of the war, airstrikes conducted were frequently close-air support missions, called in by U.S. forces as they wandered into nests of enemy fighters. Today, though, the targets of airstrikes look largely pre-planned. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, "The increased airpower supports a deliberate air campaign designed to degrade the Taliban's primary means of funding its operations narcotic production," Air Force Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli, spokeswoman for Air Forces Central Command, told Military Times. "The United States has shifted from a time-based approach to one based on conditions," she added. "Conditions on the ground not arbitrary timetables will guide the strategy. In this new campaign, we no longer recognize arbitrary fighting seasons,' but instead will apply relentless pressure on the Taliban as demonstrated by the nonstop airstrikes since late November.", Some missions against drug labs are conducted by teams of Afghan and U.S. special operations forces carrying out raids. These ground-based attacks sometimes bring back pictures and reports that help illuminate the narcotics business. To date, these efforts combined have deprived the Taliban of an estimated 220 million in revenue, according to Army Col. Lisa Garcia, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. However, some experts express serious doubts about those numbers. David Mansfield, a senior fellow at the London School of Economics, has researched opium production in Afghanistan for the past 20 growing seasons. In a January report for the LSE's International Drug Policy Unit, he questioned the high tax rate U.S. officials claim the Taliban apply to drug labs, as well as the total value of the drugs said to be destroyed. "I really don't know how U.S. forces came to the conclusion of a 20 percent tax rate to the Taliban," Mansfield told Military Times. "Fieldwork and, indeed, economics suggests that it is nothing like this.", "Ultimately, without them sharing the assumptions that inform how they calculate their estimate of the loss the Taliban incur from these lab strikes, then what they are reporting could at best be described as hope over substance I am afraid the math on this just doesn't make sense to anyone other than themselves.", Mansfield also expressed concern that ground-based intelligence gathering and post-impact reporting after airstrikes was poorly done, based on a Nov. 19 airstrike in Musa Qala in Helmand province. His research determined that three of the six buildings struck that night were not actually drug labs. One building was frequently used by local Taliban, while the other two were owned by an opium trader known as Hajji Habibullah. "Hajji Habibullah was sleeping in his residence with his wife, and children a 7-year-old daughter and four sons aged between 3 and 8. ... Only Hajji Habibullah's son-in-law survived the attack," according to Mansfield's research. "It is also alleged that the slight delay between the air strikes allowed any occupants to escape to the river to the west of the opium bazaar. No such opportunity was afforded to Hajji Habibullah and his family as it was his compound that was first struck.", Mansfield's research underscores concerns that without the same amount of troops on the ground as in past years, the intelligence gathering for airstrikes may be inadequate. It's not entirely clear how U.S. forces are gathering the intelligence necessary to conduct strikes effectively, given the roughly 85 percent reduction of troops since 2011. David Shedd, former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that the "technical intelligence is as good as it's ever been," but human intelligence gathering has likely receded alongside the footprint of U.S. forces. "I left the DIA at a time when the forward physical presence was a very good barometer, but I'm told that the technical collection piece is much better," Shedd said. "I can't imagine the human intelligence piece is just as good with fewer people, but the technical collection remains very, very strong.", For technical intelligence, Shedd pointed to the greater capabilities of aircraft sensors downrange to scour targets, as well as the monitoring of radio frequencies and other, more complex signals and imagery collection. "Does it replace on-the-ground, tactical elements that I would trust to report back accurately? Probably not 100 percent," Shedd said. "But I understand it's in the good enough' category to maintain this campaign where it's at now.", Before the drawdown, troops working remote village stability operations would constantly collect information to pass up the collection chain, where it was sussed through and fused together within a broader network of technical and ground-based data. National intelligence agencies rarely have the granularity of intelligence gathering that a ground force could provide after "literally going around the mountain, and over the hill to conduct a battle damage assessment or pre-strike report," Shedd said. In an era with a much smaller forward-deployed presence, it remains unclear if the replacement of human intelligence-gathering with technical collection will always suffice. Citing operational security concerns, Garcia, the U.S. forces spokeswoman, said she couldn't provide information on how exactly they are currently sourcing their intelligence. Additionally, "we cannot provide any further information about whether or not coalition advisers or Afghan tactical air coordinators were on the ground for specific strikes," Garcia said, referencing the teams of operators who could provide ground-based intelligence and targeting information prior to an airstrike. Garcia would only add that U.S. advisers "are seeing successes on the battlefield as a result of tactical air coordinators."
Iran can expand range of its missiles says revolutionary guard commander
WASHINGTON A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said Monday that Tehran has can expand the range of its missiles beyond the current limit of 2,000 kilometers the latest in a war of words with Washington. "We have the capability to build missiles with higher ranges," IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said, according to the Fars news agency. "The number 2,000 kilometers is not a divine decree what has been decided until today is based on our needs.", Hajizadeh noted that many "enemy bases" were located 300 to 800 kilometers from the country's borders. The remarks, to Iranian university students in Tehran, came days after the U.S. and Iran traded accusations over Tehran's latest ballistic missile test and amid accusations that Tehran tested a missile that can reach European countries. U.S. President Donald Trump in August reactivated economic sanctions on Iran after leaving a multilateral Iran nuclear deal because the deal did not ban Iran's testing of ballistic missiles. On Dec. 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying "multiple warheads," in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231. The missile "allows it to strike parts of Europe and anywhere in the Middle East," Pompeo said. Iranian officials have since said that Iran has no plans to develop nuclear weapons, and in a recent news release, it called America's withdrawal from the nuclear deal as "unlawful." Iranian officials in recent days have stressed the precision-striking power of the country's arsenal. The U.N. Security Council subsequently discussed the matter behind closed doors without taking action. However, Britain's U.N. ambassador, Karen Pierce, told reporters afterward that members expressed "a lot of concern" about the test launch and said the 2015 resolution doesn't say nuclear weapons must be on the missiles. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, She called Iran's actions "inconsistent" with the resolution and "part and parcel of Iran's destabilizing activity in the region.", "If you wanted to demonstrate to the international community that you were a responsible member of it and you were genuinely interested in regional peace and security, these are not the sorts of missiles you would be test launching," Pierce said. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently said that "right now the strategic level of threat from Iran is less worldwide than North Korea's, but it is certainly significant regionally, and it could grow beyond that if it's not dealt with.",
Pentagon identifies US soldier killed in Afghanistan
The Defense Department on Friday released the name of the soldier who was killed this week in Afghanistan. Sgt. James Slape, 23, died Thursday in Helmand province from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was deployed in support of Operations Resolute Support and Freedom's Sentinel. Slape, of Morehead City, North Carolina, was assigned to the 430th Explosive Ordnance Company, 60th Troop Command, of the North Carolina Army National Guard. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant. Slape's unit deployed to Afghanistan in April and is scheduled to return to the U.S. in the spring. Slape joined the North Carolina Guard in 2013 and, after training, graduated as an explosive ordnance specialist in 2015. The incident is under investigation, officials said. "We are deeply saddened by the news of Sgt. James Slape losing his life while serving our country,' said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, in a statement. "We honor his courage, his selfless service and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and fellow soldiers as we hold them firmly in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time."
Streamlight launches ProTac railmounted HLX laser
Streamlight Inc. a leading provider of high-performance lighting and weapon light/laser sighting devices, introduced a laser-equipped model of its popular ProTac Rail Mount HL-X weapon light. The ultra-bright long-gun light delivers 1,000 lumens, while offering double-switch functionality and an integrated red aiming laser with a unique clamp design to maintain windage and elevation adjustments. The ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser offers the latest in close combat/defense illumination technology for rifles, carbines, and sub-machine guns with MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rails. Its specially designed clamp allows the light to rotate to maintain windage and elevation settings in any mounted position. The new light also features multi-fuel options, including either a USB rechargeable system that uses a Streamlight 18650 USB battery, or a CR123A lithium battery version. "Tactical, military and other users alike can benefit from the ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser's targeted bright white light and its red aiming laser with adjustable windage and elevation for enhanced accuracy," said Streamlight President and Chief Executive Officer Ray Sharrah. "It also offers the functionality of double switches, including both a push button tail switch or dual remote pressure switch, to suit user preference.", The new light uses a high power LED to deliver blinding white light that produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination. Featuring high, low and strobe settings, on the high setting, the ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser provides 1,000 lumens and 18,200 candela over a beam distance of 270 meters. On low, the light provides 60 lumens and 1,100 candela over a beam distance of 66 meters. The new light also features TEN-TAP programming that allows user selection of one of three different programs high/strobe factory default high only or low/high. The light is powered by either one Streamlight 18650 USB battery or two CR123A lithium batteries. When using an 18650 USB battery, the ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser delivers up to 1.5 hours of run time on high and 23 hours on the low setting. With CR123A lithium batteries inserted, the light provides up to one hour and 15 minutes of run time on high and over 20 hours on low. The ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser mounts to a broad range of weapons safely and securely by means of a one-handed, easy on-and-tighten interface that permits users to keep their hands away from the gun muzzle. The light can be operated with either a multi-function, push-button tactical tail cap switch or a dual remote pressure switch with latching push-button. Both switches allow for one-handed operation of the momentary, variable intensity or strobe settings. Fabricated from 6000 series machined aluminum with a black anodized finish, the light features a high temperature, impact-resistant Boro Float glass lens. It measures 6.56 inches in length, with its weight varying depending on the two battery options. With the CR123A battery, the light weighs 10.3 ounces it weighs 10.8 ounces with an 18650 USB battery. The light is IPX4 rated for water-resistant operation. Extensively live fire tested, it features impact-resistant construction and an extensive operating temperature. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for GearScout Weekly, Streamlight offers an optional 18650 Battery Charger that can recharge either one or two batteries simultaneously, and permits charging through either AC/DC or USB power sources. The ProTac Rail Mount HL-X Laser with the 18650 USB battery has an MSRP of 275 and includes a rail grabber, pushbutton tail cap switch, remote pressure switch, hardware kit and 22-inch USB cord. The CR123 A lithium battery model has an MSRP of 260. The light comes with Streamlight's Limited Lifetime Warranty.
US Navy to add 46 ships in five years but 355 ships wont come for a long time
WASHINGTON The U.S. Navy will grow by more than 40 ships over the next five years, the Navy's Budget director said Monday. But while the fleet will grow rapidly in the near term, the gains will sputter out shortly thereafter. While the shipbuilding budget request saw a relatively modest increase in the service's 2019 submission over the previous year, service-life extension programs, a bevy of new destroyers and littoral combat ships will push the Navy's numbers higher rapidly to 326 ships in 2023. That's a jump of 46 ships over just the next five years from today's count of 280. But from there the pace of growth will slow significantly, adding the final 30 ships of the Navy's goal over the next quarter century. The Navy will not reach the goal of 355 ships until the 2050s, said Rear Adm. Brian Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget. Click here for more on President Trump's FY19 budget!, The Navy's new 30-year shipbuilding plan gets to President Obama's goal of 308 ships by 2020, a year faster than the previous administration's goal of 2021, and then moves up to 326 ships by the end of the five year future-year defense planning projections, and building 10 more ships than Obama was planning for during the same timeframe. The service will also buoy their numbers through service-life extensions on six of the older cruisers, meaning that in total, the service will have modernized 17 of its 22 cruisers past their 35-year service life. The Navy is currently upgrading its newest 11 cruisers through a phased modernization plan. , Defense News embarked on the ship, facing decommissioning, officers and sailors agreed USS Mobile Bay has plenty of life left in the tank. It is unclear which cruisers will be modernized, and how it will affect the planned retirement of those cruisers starting in 2020, though the shipbuilding plan doesn't show any large surface combatants retiring until 2024. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Navy Times Daily News Roundup, The Navy's end strength will also increase over the next five years, adding nearly 17,000 sailors, an approached that Luthor said was disciplined to not add ships or equipment without the needed sailors to support them. "I think the number we identified matches the ownership costs that we identified," Luther said in his rollout of the Navy's FY19 budget. "So we grow in lead of some of the equipment because we have to train people ahead of when the ship arrives. It was a disciplined approach to ensure we didn't procure a ship without people, we didn't procure a ship without armament, we didn't procure a ship without armament. So it's a very balanced and disciplined approach. Subs take a dive, The Navy's 326 ships in 2023 will mark a high point under the current plan, but a slew of ship retirements starting in 2024 will start to drag down the numbers again. Those losses are driven by the final Los Angeles-class attack boats leaving the fleet and a handful of large surface combatants likely a combination of cruisers and oldest destroyers. That will drag the fleet numbers to between 313 and 315 for a handful of years before the fleet is projected to start growing again in the 2030s. Perhaps most distressing of all is that even with the Navy's current plan to continue buying two Virginia-class attack boats per year even during years when they buy the Columbia-class ballistic missile subs the fleet of attack boats will still see a precipitous decline in numbers to 42 boats, down from a projected 52 in 2019. , The fleet's requirement is 66 attack boats, a number the shipbuilding plan doesn't hit until 2048. "We already know we have a capacity gap, and if it's taking longer to get there and we even have a decrease from where we are today you're just going to put more strain on the force," said Thomas Callender, a retired submariner and analyst at the Heritage Foundation. "And if you look at the adversaries, the Russians are investing in and building new submarines. The Chinese are as well.", The path to reaching a 355-ship Navy seems all but clear. The Navy has identified anti-access area denial as a significant threat, Callender continued, and shorting the investment in attack boats, which can operate in areas that are denied by enemy missile batteries in the air and on the surface, doesn't make a lot of sense. "It runs counter to where they say the threats are going to be it's a say-do mismatch," he said. , All told, the Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan won't ever get that close to 355 ships. The highest the current plan gets is 342 in 2039. , Some advocating for 355 ships were disappointed that the Navy doesn't seem to be emphasizing the smaller ships to drive up numbers, opting instead to accept fewer, more capable ships. "Overall, although I'm glad to see the numbers come up, I think they are bypassing some opportunities," said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Naval Flight Officer and analyst with the Center for a New American Security. Hendrix said he'd like to see the Navy explore some more creative options for maintaining force structure like procuring more frigates and fewer high-end destroyers to drive numbers, and identifying some of the Los Angeles-class attack boats to be refueled and extended in service to keep the attack boat numbers from dipping too low. "If you can re-core some of those boats there may be between six and eight that we can extend that will help us get through that bathtub," Hendrix said.
First F35B Fighter Jets Arrive in Japan
MELBOURNE, Australia The first Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters have arrived in Japan, beginning the type's first permanent overseas basing assignment with the US Marine Corps. According to the III Marine Expeditionary Force, F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron VMFA 121 "Green Knights" arrived at Marine Corps Air Station MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, at approximately 530 p.m. local time on Wednesday. These are the first of what will eventually be 16 VMFA-121 F-35Bs to be based at Iwakuni, with 10 aircraft scheduled to arrive this month and another six to arrive over the summer. Defense News reported earlier that the F-35Bs had left MCAS Yuma, Arizona, to cross the Pacific on Jan. 9. "The arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional security of the Pacific," said Maj. Gen. Russell Sanborn, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general. "We are bringing the most advanced technology to the Pacific to respond to the wide range of missions we take part in and provide greater support to our regional allies.", Iwakuni is already home to a forward-deployed Marine F/A-18D Hornet squadron and a squadron of KC-130J Hercules tanker-transport aircraft, along with a number of air assets of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. In addition, two more Marine Hornet squadrons are normally on temporary rotations to Iwakuni at any one time under the Unit Deployment Program UDP. III MEF has yet to respond to a Defense News query on whether the basing of the F-35Bs at Iwakuni will result in any changes to the UDP. The Green Knights will join in regional joint exercises this year throughout the Pacific Command's area of responsibility, including the biennial exercise Northern Edge in Alaska, Forager Fury in Guam, and Exercises Ssang Yong and Max Thunder in South Korea. The squadron will also use Exercise Northern Edge as predeployment training for their first operational shipboard deployment with the F-35B, with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in the fall of 2017. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, The amphibious assault ship Wasp is scheduled to become part of the US 7th Fleet's forward-deployed naval forces in the fall of 2017, when it moves from Norfolk, Virginia, to Sasebo, Japan, according to an earlier release from US Pacific Fleet. The Wasp, unlike the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, which the Wasp will be replacing at Sasebo, has been modernized to conduct operations with the F-35B.
Nuclear warhead manager seeks FY19 funding for new nuke designs
WASHINGTON The agency in charge of managing America's nuclear warheads is in discussions with the Office of Management and Budget about getting funding to start work on two new nuclear capabilities sought by the Trump administration. The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency within the Department of Energy, is a key player as the government seeks to create both a low-yield warhead for its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a new sea-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile. But while the Pentagon has identified those two systems as vital to national interests, and has set aside 22.6 million in fiscal 2019 for a low-yield ballistic warhead, the NNSA's budget request for FY19 doesn't contain any funds to support that work. "We are leaning as far forward as we possibly can, working with OMB and the Department of Defense" on the question of FY19 funds, said Lisa Gordon-Haggerty, the NNSA head, during congressional testimony Tuesday. Philip Calbos, acting deputy administrator for defense programs at NNSA, later added that it would be "beneficial" for the agency to be able to begin work on the two new systems in '19, rather than having to wait until money is put into the FY2020 request. The officials did not clarify how they would go about getting that money added to the budget request, but it could come as either a supplemental request from the administration or through Congress during the authorization and appropriations process. Members of the House Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee seemed open to that option during Tuesday's hearing, with several members saying they looked forward to talking with the agency officials in a smaller setting. The Nuclear Posture Review laid out the need to invest in both a short-term development of a low-yield nuclear warhead that could be put on the Navy's Trident ballistic missiles, as well as a new nuclear-capable cruise missile that can be launched by naval vessels. But while the DoD is ready to invest in the near-term capability, the NNSA appears to have been unable to incorporate the final decisions of the NPR, as it was building its budget at the same time. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, Calbos described the NNSA's portion of work on the submarine-launched ballistic missile as "a moderate level of effort, again relatively speaking, at a moderate cost. And we believe we can fit it in, in the near term." That is in line with the belief, expressed by defense officials, that the agency should be able to simply modify a handful of the W76-1 warheads already undergoing a service life extension. In an exclusive exit interview, Frank Klotz, who retired on Jan. 19 as the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, warns that his agency is stretched to the limit. And because the sea launched cruise missile capability is not as near term, that should not impact the series of currently ongoing warhead life-extension and modification programs assuming those all stay on track. Both officials said they believe the warhead modernization efforts currently underway will not be impacted by the additional projects, but acknowledged that the real driver of keeping things on track comes down to stable funds. "This is not a one-, two-, three-year effort. It took us a while to reach the point we are in, in respect to the enterprise, and it will take us a while to get it back on secure footing for the next several decades," Calbos said. "Technically, we have the workforce that can do it. We're beefing up the enterprise so it can do the work it needs to do. We need sustained funding for many years.",
Hardware endstrength Russia and China sanctions Heres the deal lawmakers reached on the huge defense
WASHINGTON U.S. House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Monday on a 716 billion defense authorization bill that includes a sizable boost in military end strength, more ships and planes than the White House asked for, and a compromise on U.S. sanctions on Russia. The agreement comes months ahead of Congress' typical schedule for the sweeping defense policy measure. The legislation has been finalized by Congress for 57 consecutive years but not passed before the start of the new fiscal year in the past decade. The House is expected to vote on the deal this week, and the Senate possibly in August. From there, President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law. Senior committee aides said the speed of the work was designed to avoid political fights and unrelated policy debates heading into the November midterm election, The measure authorizes a base defense budget of 639 billion and 69 billion more for overseas contingency operations. The totals match previously agreed upon spending plans for fiscal 2019, but break with administration priorities in a host of areas. Hardware. For aviation, lawmakers backed administration plans for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with limitations on software upgrades pending cost and schedule information. The bill would back the Air Force plan to kill its JSTARS recapitalization program while restricting retirement of the legacy E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. It requires the Air Force to develop a plan to sustain the aircraft until the follow-on program is ready. For the Navy, the bill funds 13 ships three beyond the president's budget request to include two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships an additional Ford-class aircraft carrier, two TAO-205 oilers, one expeditionary sea base, and one T-ATS towing, salvage and rescue ship. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, The bill contains 200 million to expand the submarine industrial base and to aid in the advanced procurement of the Columbia-class sub in 2022 and 2023, according to House aides. Personnel. The legislation calls for a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops starting next January, a mark agreed upon by both House and Senate lawmakers in their separate drafts. Conference committee members agreed upon end-strength increases in line with the White House's requests for military might. The Army's end strength will grow by about 4,000 soldiers, the Navy's by 7,500 sailors, the Air Force by 4,000 airmen and the Marine Corps by about 100 Marines. The final agreement also includes House-backed language requiring the secretary of defense to certify that any military units or vehicles to be used in any national military parades or displays will not harm current service missions or readiness. Senate lawmakers successfully argued provisions that would give each of the services more flexibility with officer promotion rules, including changing promotion timelines and personnel limits on specialty skills. Turkey F-35s. The bill bars delivery of the F-35 to Turkey until the U.S. government submits an assessment of the U.S.-Turkey relationship. It also requires an assessment of the operational and counterintelligence risks posed by that country's planned purchase of the Russian-made S-400 air and missile defense system to weapons systems and platforms operated jointly with Turkey, including the F-35. The bill includes a sense of Congress calling on Turkey to release "wrongfully detained" U.S. citizens Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge, according to a bill summary. Russia sanctions. The bill includes a compromise waiver under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, that provides leniency for strategic partners and allies purchasing Russian military equipment, so long as they are taking steps to wean themselves from it. A Democratic summary of the bill says the measure is more stringent from the Republican-backed provision in the House version of the bill, China. The conference report dropped a Senate-backed provision banning Chinese telecom giant ZTE from doing business with both the government and private sector in favor of a the House-backed provision that would ban ZTE from working with the government. The bill would strengthen the interagency committee that reviews deals between foreign investors and U.S.-based businesses for national security concerns. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, ot CFIUS, would receive broader abilities to block transactions with Chinese companies that could pose a national security risk. Wildlife protections. The bill excludes a House-backed provision, opposed by Democrats, that would have prohibited the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken from being listed under the Endangered Species Act for a period of 10 years. It also maintains the endangered status of the American burying beetle. The bill would require that the Navy seek government approval every seven years for plans that potentially harm marine mammals less than the current five-years but more frequently than the 10 years proposed by the House.
Your new Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force talks promotions enlisted pilots dwell time and more
The Air Force's new top enlisted leader, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, doesn't mince words when he talks about his rough, early days in the service. "I was a pretty crappy airman, honestly," Wright said in a Feb. 15 interview in his new, still-bare office at the Pentagon. "I used to get in trouble a lot, got wrote up a lot. Coming to work late, not paying my bills, talking back, just kind of being irresponsible. Fighting. I used to fight a lot when I was a young guy." But Wright was fortunate enough to gain the attention of a tough master sergeant who took him under his wing, set him straight, and became a father figure to him. The example that Master Sgt. Joe Winbush set inspired Wright's own leadership style and his desire to help other young airmen find their talents. And now, as the 18th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Wright has the opportunity to help shape the entire enlisted ranks for the better. Wright took over Feb. 17 as the new CMSAF, at the retirement ceremony for his predecessor, Chief Master Sgt. James Cody. Wright was previously the command chief master sergeant of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa, headquartered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He comes from a dental background and has deployed to support Operation Desert Storm and to Afghanistan. Wright joined the Air Force in 1989 but it wasn't the path he ever imagined himself on. Even though his hometown of Columbus, Georgia, is an Army town that's home to Fort Benning, he didn't come from a military family or have any desire to pursue a career in the armed forces. Call it an omen' But Wright had to drop out of Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina after less than a year because he didn't have enough money to stay in school. He went back home to mull over his future, he said. "I was laying on the couch, I rolled over, my wallet fell out, hit the ground, one thing fell out it was an Air Force recruiter's card," Wright said. "I looked down at it, and said, Hey, I'll join the Air Force.' I called a recruiter and two months later I was in San Antonio. It was kind of call it an omen." It wasn't a good fit at first, as he got into what he called "19-, 20-year-old mischievous stuff. That type of stuff that in today's Air Force, you won't last long doing those types of things.", But during Wright's first few misguided years at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, Winbush noticed him and took him under his wing. "That was the beginning of my 180," Wright said. One day after Wright had been in the Air Force for about three years Winbush handed Wright an application to join the base's honor guard. Wright handed it back and said he wasn't interested. "He gave it back with a few choice words," Wright said. "So I had to clean my act up a little bit. My uniform used to be really shoddy. I wasn't really that into serving. But joining the base honor guard gave me a different perspective.", Wright worked his way up to team lead, and recalls vividly the day he had to present a flag to the widow of a late airman during a funeral. "I remember the second that I changed my life around, when I presented this flag and made eye contact," Wright said. "You have to say this canned statement. 'On behalf of the president of the United States and this grateful nation.' I made eye contact with the spouse. She cried, and that moment, I said to myself, 'Hey man, you got to get your life together. You got to get serious about your life and your career.'", Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Air Force Times Daily News Roundup, The newly-focused Wright began working harder, winning awards, going back to school, and paying more attention to the way he looked and the way he spoke. Winbush "was really tough on me," but fair, Wright said. "Even though he was a dental guy, he was more like a maintenance NCO. A lot of cursing, a lot of hard lessons to learn. He would always tell me what I need to hear, not what I wanted to hear.", Sometimes, Winbush's tough love included letting Wright fall and make mistakes. And when Wright screwed up, unbeknownst to him, Winbush would talk to his first sergeant or commander not to get Wright off the hook, but to ask his leaders not to give up on the young airman. "He would say, give him whatever he deserves, letter of counseling, letter of reprimand," Wright said. "But he would assure them, 'I'm working on him, I got him.' To this day, he's still tough on me. Had it not been for him, I don't think I would have made it in the Air Force, and certainly I don't think I would have made it to where I am today.", The new Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said he was a "pretty crappy airman" until a tough master sergeant took him under his wing. Here, Wright greets an airman during a 2015 visit to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Photo Credit Staff Sgt. Michael Battles/Air Force, The new chief's agenda, Today, there is no shortage of challenges facing the enlisted force. The biggest concern Wright sees is the punishing operations tempo enlisted airmen are working under with limited resources, and the resulting drag on morale. "The fact is, we ask our airmen to do a lot with a lot less people, and a lot smaller budgets," Wright said. "Being a young airman or a young NCO in the Air Force is tough.", It's especially tough for young NCOs who have to do their primary job and then also have to supervise a handful of other young airmen, all while balancing their family needs, deployments, and other requirements such as professional military education, he said. The active-duty Air Force is slated to grow from 317,000 airmen both officers and enlisted to 321,000 by the end of this year, which is an improvement over the 311,000 at the beginning of fiscal 2016. But that's still close to historically low end strength levels and is far less than the more than 510,000 active-duty airmen during the Gulf War. And while the Air Force is short staffed, it has no shortage of missions daily operations in Iraq and Syria supporting the mission to fight the Islamic State, ongoing operations in Afghanistan, the need to support Eastern European allies wary of a resurgent Russia, and countering an emboldened China. That isn't likely to change anytime soon, Wright said. And while the Air Force wants to eventually grow to 350,000, that's still years away from happening. So the Air Force needs to find ways to ease the burden on airmen tasked with those fights, and help their families cope with challenges such as frequent deployments by making them more "resilient.", Wright said the Air Force has several programs to help airmen and their families, but they might need to be better coordinated to work more effectively. But even airmen who aren't dealing with deployments will still have challenges a bad supervisor, or a pass over for the next promotion, or other problems and they'll need to learn resiliency too, Wright said. "It happens to all of us," Wright said. "These things are designed to help us grow, and as an airman, you have to be able to bounce back from that.", Wright said he doesn't have plans for new programs, but wants to "synthesize" existing programs to get them to better work together. He also wants to make sure airmen know what kind of programs are out there to help them and that it is OK to seek mental health services. In high demand, The Air Force has long been concerned about high deployment rates, and in recent years has made progress in ensuring most airmen are home for at least twice as long as they were deployed before they are called up again. But there are some highly in-demand career fields such as those at Air Force Special Operations Command that have been facing a 11 dwell-deploy ratio, meaning they're deployed about as long as they're home. Easing the strain on such airmen will be tough, Wright said, because they have a "unique and specific skill set." Wright said the Air Force will need to talk more to commands in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps that have similar skill sets and are facing similar challenges, to get new ideas on how to handle it. Wright also wants to focus on improving the Air Force's training. That could include getting rid of unnecessary training to allow airmen to better concentrate on what matters, as well as taking advantage of technology, such as for "virtual" training. Better training will be key to achieving Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein's desire to overhaul how Air Force squadrons operate, Wright said. "I don't think we get to be the greatest Air Force that ever existed without being really well-trained," Wright said. "As the boss focuses on revitalizing the squadron, I think you can give the commander more responsibility, more authority, you can give him more resources, but if the airmen in the squadron aren't well-trained, they won't be able to perform their mission.", Leadership development is another area of interest for Wright. "How can we get the right airman in the right job at the right time with the right experience, and the right attitude?" Wright said. "It comes down to managing talent. Not only do those airmen need to be well-trained, they need to be well-led. Well-trained, well-led, resilient airmen will be the goal.", Wright said he thinks the new enlisted evaluation system a major effort during Cody's tenure is working as intended, and was the right move. "I think it's fair, I think it allows folks a broad range of opportunities to advance, to get promoted, to be recognized, to receive decorations, all things that were pretty limited under our old system," Wright said. "When I wasn't getting promoted, I wasn't happy with the system, so there are some folks that may not like it. I do hear some feedback about, we still have some issues with the performance ratings, and some folks are still far to the right receiving ratings that may be inflated. We need to figure out a way to get everybody thinking the same way with respect to the performance ratings.", Incoming Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said he looks forward to getting "unfiltered" feedback from enlisted airmen. , Photo Credit Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony/Air Force, About a year and a half from now three years after the new performance system went in place the Air Force will take a look at it to see how it's going. Wright said he also has heard complaints from some that it has led to favoritism. He said he's "not nave enough" to think that never happens, but that in most cases, it's subconscious favoritism. "Those are real problems, so I think we as senior leaders owe it to our airmen that the chiefs and the other senior NCOs are aware of those biases, and are aware of the perception that there is favoritism, and they understand the importance of being as objective as possible, and not whether you like the person," Wright said. Return of warrants?, Wright is happy with how the effort to allow enlisted airmen to fly the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft is going so far. And he thinks that, eventually, the range of aircraft enlisted airmen can fly will be expanded even further, to armed MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers and perhaps even to flying manned aircraft. "We have airmen that are perfectly capable of flying, not just other RPA systems and dropping ordnance, but that are perfectly capable of flying manned aircraft," Wright said. "Many of them have private pilot's licenses. I don't know that it will happen on my watch, but I think that's the natural progression. We have some brilliant young minds in our Air Force that are perfectly capable of flying manned aircraft.", Wright said he's "a little torn," because part of him thinks an enlisted airman who is talented enough to fly a manned aircraft deserves an officer's commission. And Wright said it's worth taking a look at reviving the warrant officer program to handle enlisted pilots, as well as other specialized fields. But he said it will require more study to see if it makes sense for the Air Force, and that he doesn't now have a position for or against warrant officers. The 'unfiltered' truth, Wright is planning a series of trips to bases around the world over the next few months, beginning with his first week in office, to talk to enlisted airmen face-to-face and find out what's on their minds. He also plans to continue Cody's practice of holding Chief Chats town hall-style meetings where the chief takes questions from enlisted airmen, that are then posted on YouTube. And Wright said he plans to be active on social media platforms such as Facebook to get feedback from airmen. "I'm all about access," he said. "I plan to be very open and accessible.", It's important to hear honest thoughts from enlisted airmen, he said even if those thoughts might make those airmen's leaders uncomfortable. "One of the hardest things for any senior leader is, how do you get to the truth, unfiltered?" Wright said. "Even when I go on a base visit and I say I want to have breakfast with some airmen, they're going to send the sharpest, most professional airmen with questions that have been vetted through the chief and the commander. And then they're going to tell them, 'Don't say anything to embarrass me, and don't bring up anything we probably can't fix in the squadron.' So it's hard for any senior leader to get to the ground truth. So that's why I like going to the gymnasium, and the DFACs dining facilities, and veering off. It'll be a little harder for me to do now, to veer off on my own, but I'll get away from the team."
US Air Force secretary JSTARS recap decision coming this month
WASHINGTON A decision on the future of the JSTARS recap program appears to be imminent, with the U.S. Air Force's top civilian doubling down on statements that the service would decide whether to cancel the program this month. By the end of October, the U.S. Air Force will have completed a "rapid assessment" to determine whether the service can use existing platforms including legacy aircraft, drones and other sensors to accomplish the mission that a new battlefield management aircraft would be charged with, U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson explained. "We really want the engineers to look at this. Is it possible to fuse the data? Do we have the technology developed and ready? We don't want to do some hand-waving over a PowerPoint chart. Really show us that it is possible to do it this way, and what is the timeline by which we can do this. So that's the scrub that we asked them to do," she said during an Oct. 5 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And yeah, it's a cycle with the budget, and we know that we've got a request for proposals out there, and we've got people making decisions. We should be able to make a rapid assessment and a decision so that we can explain to the secretary of defense through the budget process, as well as the other branch of government Congress what we think is the best thing to do and lay that out for them.", The future of the JSTARS recap program appears to be in limbo as the U.S. Air Force reevaluates the path forward for replacing its aging battle management surveillance system. Currently, three prime contractors are in source selection for the JSTARS recap competition, which will replace the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System that provides ground surveillance, targeting information and command and control. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and JSTARS incumbent Northrop Grumman have all submitted proposals for the recap program, and Northrop and Raytheon are duking it out to produce the radar that will be integrated with the aircraft. The JSTARS recap program originated because of the perceived strain to the legacy E-8C fleet, which were thought to reach the end of their lifespans early next decade. Now U.S. Air Force leaders believe they can fly the E-8Cs until about 2030, and they aren't convinced a large airborne node is the most survivable way to conduct the mission going forward. As a result, the service is considering whether to cancel the recap program, using existing assets as a stopgap until a more advanced solution is developed. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Military Space Report, The Air Force's decision on whether to cancel the JSTARS recap program will be driven, in part, on whether the service can provide a similar capability by networking together its existing platforms and sensors, the head of Air Combat Command said Monday. Speaking broadly about changes to the U.S. Air Force's space enterprise, Wilson described how the service is weighing how and when to disaggregate platforms, making them more distributed and less vulnerable to attack. "There are tradeoffs there," she said, adding that the same conversation is happening in the JSTARS recap debate about future command and control. Her statements don't appear to bode well for the future of the program. "We've got one large aircraft that we developed in 1991. It's a great aircraft, a great concept, but technology has moved on from that. And everything is a sensor," Wilson said. "If an F-35 can send its picture and its radar image to another aircraft and we're also pulling all of that down to a ground station in the Middle East, why can't we do this distributed? We're meeting only 5 percent of combatant commander requirements for battlefield command and control today. Can we do better than this?" she asked. "We're asking ourselves those questions, and that does mean moving money among programs to try to meet more priorities.", If the U.S. Air Force decides to move forward with the JSTARS recap, it is expected to award a contract next year to one of the three competitors. The program is worth an estimated 7 billion. Following Wilson's speech, Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners said the timing of an October announcement would be consistent with timing on fiscal year 2019 budget decisions. "There might be more insight here from the Association of the U.S. Army meeting next week, as JSTARS is important for ground forces surveillance and support," he wrote in a digest to investors.
Russia warns of consequences following Norways call for more Marines
Russia issued threats following Norway's decision to invite several hundred more Marines to the Arctic country for training. The threat was made via a posting to the Russian Embassy's Facebook page on Thursday. "Such acts are contrary to the Norwegian decision of 1949 to "not open bases for foreign forces in Norwegian territory as long as Norway is not attacked or threatened with attacks," the Russian statement reads. "They make Norway less predictable, can increase tension, and cause an arm's race destabilizing the situation in northern Europe. We view it as unfriendly and it will not remain without consequences.", Earlier this week, Norway invited the Corps to send up to 700 Marines for rotational training in Norway for a period of five years, more than double the size of the current rotation. The high north country also opened up a second training location in Setermoen, Norway, for the Marines. Previously, Marines have been based out of Vaernes, Norway. "More predictable rotational USMC training and exercises in Norway will significantly improve opportunities to develop and enhance interoperability between USMC and Norwegian forces," Norwegian Minister of Defence, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said in a press release. The threat from Russia also follows a series of NATO and U.S. exercises in the region. In early June, NATO kicked off Saber Strike 2018 in the Baltic states and a maritime exercises known as BALTOPS. , Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup, And in late May, the Corps sent M1A1 Abrams tanks to Finland for the first time to participate in a Finnish armored vehicle exercise. , Since 2017, the Corps has been sending six-month rotations of roughly 330 Marines to Norway for extreme cold weather training. Currently, nearly 330 Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is in Norway conducting training. It is the Corps' third rotation to the Scandinavian country. On Tuesday, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told audience members at the Naval War College in Rhode Island that the Corps would be sending an additional 300 Marines currently in Romania to Norway. "The United States Marine Corps and Norway have a long-standing and successful relationship that we look forward to strengthening," Bakke-Jensen, said in a press release. "We will continue the dialogue with the U.S. and the USMC, aiming for mutual agreement in the near future on the continuation of the rotational training and exercise activity, says Frank Bakke-Jensen.", Reuters first reported the Russian Embassy statement.
Numbers game How the Air Force is following the Army and Navys bad example
On Sept. 17, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson stole a page from the Army and the Navy, announcing that the Air Force needed to grow its number of operational squadrons by 25 percent, from 312 to 386. The Army and the Navy have both mastered the art of using absolute numbers of soldiers and ships, respectively, to describe what the future force should look like. The strategy is clear Give Congress and the public a big impressive number, and then argue anything less would put the nation at risk. Who can blame them? Describing force structure needs with one single, specific, easily bumper-sticker-able number has proven effective in defending budgets on the Pentagon's bureaucratic playground. However, thinking in these over-simplified and strictly numerical terms is actually bad for the safety of the nation it allows decision-makers and those who hold them accountable to ignore the equally, if not more important, discussion of the qualitative capability of the joint force. Let's review the tape. During the course of the contraction in defense spending beginning in fiscal year 2013, Army leadership held fast to a requirement for 490,000 soldiers in the active component, in spite of clear direction in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance to reduce the size of U.S. ground forces. Similarly, the Navy's 2016 Force Structure Assessment established a requirement for 355 ships, which Navy leadership invoked to support its budget request, describing it as "the Navy the nation needs." Since then, the 355 number has taken on near-mystical importance. Is the Air Force's 386-squadron goal just another pipe dream?, History suggests this focus on numbers worked as a means of grabbing defense dollars Between the fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 defense budget requests, the Army grew by 10 percent, the Navy by eight percent, but the Air Force grew by only six percent. So it's hard to blame Secretary Wilson for taking this step, in light of the success the Army and Navy seem to have had with similar approaches.That said, is the Air Force actually too small? As always, the answer depends on what you want the Air Force to be able to do. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, Using the new National Defense Strategy as a yardstick, it seems reasonably safe to say that the Air Force should grow if we want it to be able to best China and Russia while sustaining operations in the Middle East and continuing to support the joint force in mobility, space, and other areas. However, limiting the public dialogue around the Air Force's requirements to a single number of operational squadrons cheats the nation out of the more critical conversation detailing what those squadrons need to be able to do and in what kinds of environments. By focusing on the number, the debate treats a light attack squadron the same as an F-35 squadron. Pressure to meet the target number of squadrons run the risk of driving decisions to buy in higher volume at the less costly and less capable end of the spectrum, as we have seen in justifications of the continued buy of the Littoral Combat Ship above the Navy's own requests for the platform. Dumbing down the conversation about the Air Force's future force structure to a single number can have serious consequences for the shape of the future joint force, ones that we will sorely regret given the United States' eroding technological edge against China and Russia. We may get to the "right" number of squadrons, but whether or not they will be the right kinds of squadrons, with the right capabilities required to retain military advantage over near-peer competitors, is a separate question one largely neglected by Wilson in her remarks. The Air Force wants more space squadrons...but they could lose them to the Space Force soon. Although the Air Force has played this numbers game in the past, in recent years it has consistently been more focused on the future and the imperative to maintain U.S. military technological dominance than the other services, spending more on research and development and making difficult decisions to pursue the smaller but more capable force that the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance called for. Monday's announcement portends a possible reversal of this approach. This about face is doubly troubling given that DoD is very likely at peak budget level, with another contraction a distinct possibility in the near term. The temptation to simplify the conversation about what the future Air Force needs to look like down to a single number is strong. However, doing so, particularly in a period of fiscal contraction, can result in aestrategic decisions to retain more force structure than the service can afford to keep fully modernized and ready. By focusing only on quantity and foregoing the more nuanced and difficult discussion the qualitative capabilities the future Air Force will need, we risk neglecting the imperative to retain U.S. military advantage against China and Russia, which is the central security challenge of our time.
Punishments but no criminal charges in US attack on Afghanistan hospital
WASHINGTON A U.S. gunship attack on a hospital in Afghanistan that killed 42 people occurred because of human errors, process errors and equipment failures and none of the crew knew they were striking a trauma center, a top U.S. general said Friday. No criminal charges have been leveled against U.S. military personnel for mistakes that resulted in last's year's attack on the civilian hospital in Afghanistan operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. The group has called the attack a war crime. Gen. Joseph Votel, the new head of U.S. Central Command, said that the trauma center was on a no-strike list but that the gunship crew didn't have access to the list. The Pentagon was releasing the full report on the investigation on Friday, including details about what exactly led a U.S. Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship to bomb the hospital and how those mistakes were made. According to one senior U.S. official, a two-star general was among about 16 American military personnel disciplined because of the attack. A number of those punished are U.S. special operations forces. No one was sent to court-martial, officials said. However, in many cases a nonjudicial punishment, such as a letter of reprimand or suspension, can effectively end a military career. The officials were not authorized to discuss the case by name and requested anonymity. The U.S. airstrike in the northern city of Kunduz last October was carried out by one of the most lethal aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. Doctors Without Borders has called the attack "relentless and brutal.", The Associated Press reported in March that more than a dozen U.S. military personnel had been disciplined in connection with the bombing, and that the punishments were all largely administrative. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, The crew of the AC-130, which is armed with side-firing cannons and guns, had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command center in a building 450 yards from the hospital, the U.S. military said in November. Hampered by problems with their targeting sensors, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital even though they saw no hostile activity there. Officials have said the attack was caused by human error, and that many chances to prevent the attack on the wrong target were missed. A separate U.S. report on the incident, obtained last fall by the AP, said the AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound over 29 minutes before commanders realized the mistake and ordered a halt. Doctors Without Borders officials contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say the hospital was "being 'bombed' from the air," and the word finally was relayed to the AC-130 crew, the report said. The attack came as U.S. military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz, which had fallen to the Taliban on Sept. 28. It was the first major city to fall since the Taliban were expelled from Kabul in 2001. Afghan officials claimed the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, but no evidence of that has surfaced. The hospital was destroyed and Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym, MSF, ceased operations in Kunduz. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Corker erupts at GOP leaders for derailing vote on Trump tariffs
WASHINGTON Republican Sen. Bob Corker gave Republican colleagues an earful Tuesday for blocking a vote on his legislation to check U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff authority. The proposed amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act would have given Congress a shot at overturning the president's steel and aluminum tariffs. It was one of several derailed in a deadlocked amendment process for the bill. Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. called for a vote to end debate Tuesday evening, setting the Senate up to pass the massive policy bill next week. This capped an impasse Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee had their amendments to bar indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens blocked by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, so they were blocking all other amendments. Earlier in the day, Corker, R-Tenn. who serves as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, rebuked GOP leaders for quashing his amendment to avoid blowback from the president. Corker, who is retiring after his term ends, has publicly feuded with Trump before. " Gosh, we might poke the bear!' is the language I've been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment,' " Corker said in a fiery floor speech. "I know that every ounce of power possible is going to be used to keep from voting on this amendment because, well, my gosh, the president might not like it, and, therefore, we as senators might be offending someone by deciding whether we in fact want to assert some responsibility over a process of tariffing where we wake up, ready, fire, aim," Corker said. Corker has been a vocal critic of Trump's decision to invoke national security to levy a 25 percent surcharge on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum from Europe, Mexico and Canada. On the floor Tuesday, he said he feared Trump is provoking retaliatory action and that he wanted to head that off. Corker's amendment would require the president to submit to Congress any proposal to adjust imports in the interest of national security under Section 232 and that in turn would receive a vote within 60 days. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, Corker said he would not hold up any other amendments just because he could not get a vote. "For the last year and a half ... under leader McConnell, we have had one amendment vote. One amendment vote," he said. The Trump administration's steel and aluminum tariffs have sparked fears in the defense sector. On Tuesday, Sen. Jim Inhofe, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, objected to Corker's amendment, citing procedural reasons. He said after conferring with House colleagues, he was convinced inclusion of the "non-germane" amendment would jeopardize passage of the final bill. "I would like to join Senator Corker in finding another bill, and I will do all I could to help him to get that on as an amendment, but not to the defense authorization bill," Inhofe said. "I think this would cause a lot of damage. The House agrees with this. I can't let that happen.", Corker said outside the chamber that he would instead look for another piece of legislation to which he can attach his legislation, according to a report in The Hill.
Space Force and midterms share stage as Trump signs Pentagon policy bill
WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump signed the 716 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2019 into law at the Army's Fort Drum in New York on Monday making personal pitches for Republican candidates and his controversial Space Force proposal. At a giant ceremony in an aircraft hangar, Trump called out specifics in the National Defense Authorization Act, such as the setting of military pay raise at 2.6 percent starting next January, its additions of 15,600 more troops to the armed services' overall end strength, and a laundry list of added aircraft and ship purchases above what the White House requested. "Last year we secured a historic 700 billion to rebuild our military," Trump said. "Next year we have 716 billion to give you the finest planes and ships and tanks and missiles anywhere on Earth. Nobody makes them like we do.", Trump also gave his most articulated pitch to date for a new space-focused military service and suggested the U.S. had lost its technological edge to rivals. Trump said specifically that China created a military space organization and broadly that other nations are developing technologies to disrupt communications, blind satellites and "jam transmissions that threaten our battlefield operations.", "Our foreign adversaries and competitors have already begun weaponizing space," Trump said. "I've seen things that you don't even want to see, what they're doing, and how advanced they are. We'll be catching them very shortly. ... We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time, your head will spin.", Trump's visit to Fort Drum, home to the 10th Mountain Division, was marked by a military exercise that included artillery fire and rotary-wing aircraft. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, "A few moments ago, I witnessed your extraordinary capabilities firsthand during an artillery raid demonstration, so I'd like to begin by applauding the 10th Mountain Division Combat Aviation Brigade, along with the Third Battalion, Sixth Field Artillery," he said. "I hate to say this, but nobody stands a chance against you folks. Nobody stands a chance.", Vice President Mike Pence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan attended the event and more than a dozen uniformed soldiers flanked Trump as he signed the bill. The 2019 NDAA is named for Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. who has been battling brain cancer at home since last year, but Trump did not mention McCain, a repeated critic of his. Trump also claimed credit for the bill's Pentagon spending boost, though it represents an increase over his budget request, hard won by McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "The National Defense Authorization Act is the most significant investment in our military, and our war fighters in modern history, and I am very proud to be a big, big part of it. It was not very hard," Trump said. "You know, I went to Congress, I said let's do it, we got to do it. We're going to strengthen our military like never, ever before and that's what we did.", This was Trump's first visit to upstate New York since becoming president. Fighting to maintain Republican control of the House, Trump is set to attend a fundraiser Monday for Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, who is locked in a competitive race with her Democratic rival. President Trump has ordered the creation of a new branch of the military focused on space something his own secretary of defense has opposed. At the ceremony, Trump recognized Rep. Elise Stefanik, who represents Watertown, home to Fort Drum, and chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Though Stefanik's district is comfortably red, The New York Times spotlighted her re-election race as an example of where Independents represent a powerful force. "She's an incredible representative," Trump said, later calling out her work to add artificial intelligence provisions to the NDAA. Trump also briefly recognized HASC member Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. who is vying for the GOP nomination for Senate. Also in the audience, McSally did not endorse Trump in 2016, but has sought his support to help edge out more right-leaning contenders. The 2019 NDAA passed the House by a vote of 359-54 and the Senate by 87-10. This early passage of the NDAA into law lawmakers labor until late fall before reaching agreement on the legislation gives lawmakers facing midterm re-election fights some campaign-trail fodder. No words or thanks for the senator and former POW, who is battling brain cancer. It remains to be seen whether those bragging rights will extend to defense appropriations, once lawmakers return from summer recess. The Senate passed a four-bill spending "minibus" for the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as a number of other government agencies. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. announced that he had reached an agreement with Senate Democrats on bringing defense appropriations legislation to the Senate floor later this month, as part of a broader effort to wrap up fiscal 2019 military spending issues before the election. One wild card is Trump's threat in late July to push the government into a shutdown unless Congress funds his border wall. If appropriations bills aren't passed and signed into law by Sept. 30, without a stopgap funding measure, it would trigger a shutdown. The Pentagon doesn't intend to ask for a big increase for funding in FY2020. In a statement Monday, Thornberry said it is "essential" that appropriations be approved before the start of the fiscal year. He and other pro-defense lawmakers have pressed for predictable defense spending on the grounds that shutdowns and stopgap spending is wasteful and harms military readiness. "This measure continues to rebuild and repair our military while making needed reforms in the Pentagon," he said of the NDAA. "It takes important steps to confront the aggressive behavior of Russia, China, and others. Most of all, it helps ensure that our troops get what they need to carry out the missions they are assigned."
Lockheed planning big shift away from LCS propulsion system for its future frigate offering
PARIS Lockheed Martin is planning to shift from its littoral combat ship's water-jet propulsion to a propulsion system that the U.S. Navy is more familiar with for its future frigate offering, Lockheed's vice president for small combatants and ship systems told reporters at the 2018 Euronaval show. As it works through the Navy's requirements for its FFGX program, Lockheed is hoping that a more traditional twin-screw design with independent drive trains will entice the service towards its offering. One of the major hang-ups with the design requirements for all the competitors has been requirement that the engineering spaces be separated by a certain number of meters so that if the ship takes damage in one area, the other space should be online to drive the ship. If the design can't meet the spacing requirement, an alternative propulsion unit has to be installed. The Navy has awarded 15 million contracts to four companies for conceptual designs for the FFGX program. For Lockheed, the decision was to try and meet the spacing requirement, which is making its FFGX offering a bigger ship than the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship. "We felt the more traditional approach to the suite, going with more of the ... port and starboard side, redundant type of propulsion trains, that familiarity would be well received by the Navy. Going to more of a common system sized for the FFGX," said Joe DePietro. "It does require the ship to be longer, given those separation requirements and how you plan to stagger your port and starboard configuration of the combining gear/reduction gear, running into a single shaft into a screw on either side. You have to have a certain amount of separation and they have to be fully independent.", As for the system itself, Lockheed is keeping its options open, but is looking hard and combined diesel and gas systems, or even combined diesel and diesel, give the speed requirements for FFGX, which are well reduced from what they were for the speedy LCS. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, The fleet has been receptive but mixed on the idea of a straight diesel propulsion system. But the trade-off for gas turbines is less fuel efficiency, which impacts range, DePietro said. In February, the Navy announced that it had awarded design contracts to asked to Huntington Ingalls, Lockheed Martin, Austal USA, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, and Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri have all been asked to submit mature designs. Lockheed is playing a strong hand going into selection, however, because of its partnership with Fincantieri on the Freedom-variant LCS, which is built at Fincantieri's Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. Lockheed will either win the award for its modified LCS or it will be a systems integrator for Fincantieri's FREMM, which is another leading competitor for the program. The anti-submarine warfare FREMM Alpino is pretty darn cool It's built to fight and has plenty of power to go around. It has espresso machines, which may or may not land in the Navy version. But it's also not perfect.
B2 Spirit stealth bombers 200 airmen deploy to Guam
Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and approximately 200 airmen arrived at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam Monday. The aircraft and airmen, assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, deployed to Guam in support of U.S. Pacific Command's bomber assurance and deterrence mission, according to Pacific Air Forces. During this "short-term deployment," the B-2s will conduct local and regional training sorties. They will also work with "key regional partners, ensuring bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness and crew proficiency.", The nuclear-capable stealth bombers join several B-1B Lancer conventional bombers at Andersen Air Force Base. PACOM has said the Lancers are "ready to fulfill U.S. Forces Korea's Fight Tonight mission if called upon to do so." , The B-1Bs have flown over the Korean Peninsula for drills with U.S. and Korean forces over the past few months as tensions remain high between the United States and North Korea due to the Norths determination to continue developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Air Force Times Daily News Roundup, In a meeting with South Korean officials Jan. 9, North Korea agreed to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, a breakthrough after months of hostilities. But after the meeting, Ri Son-kwon, who led the North Korean delegation, criticized South Korean reporters for saying the talks including discussion of de-nuclearization. "All our cutting-edge weapons, including our hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles, are not targeting our Korean brothers, China or Russia but the United States," Ri said, according to pool reports. "If we begin talking about these issues, then today's good results might be reduced to nothing.", A lone B-2 Spirit flew to Guam from Whiteman in October for a short-term mission. The stealth bombers also deployed to Guam in August 2016 as part of an historic integrated bomber operation with B-1B Lancers and a B-52 Stratofortress.
Another government shutdown is possible Whats at stake for the military
WASHINGTON Congress could cause a partial government shutdown next month, with proposed defense spending at the center of a looming feud between Capitol Hill and the White House. The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled its proposed fiscal 2018 budget for all federal programs and a plan to fund the last few months of fiscal 2017, which ends Sept. 30. And while Republicans control both houses of Congress, Democratic party leaders have threatened to allow a shutdown unless some compromises are made. Should that happen, it could disrupt military operations both at home and overseas, and delay ambitious plans to recapitalize the force. Currently, the Defense Department and most other federal programs are running off a continuing budget resolution that expires at the end of April. The White House plan includes a 25 billion boost in base defense spending for the final five months of the current fiscal year, and at least 18 billion in cuts to non-defense programs over the same period. The extra money is for "urgent warfighting readiness needs," President Trump said in an accompanying letter to Congress. It's also necessary, he says, to begin a "sustained effort to rebuild the U.S. armed forces," and to address shortfalls in everything from personnel and training to equipment maintenance and munitions. Standing in the way is a new agreement from congressional Democrats to lift the defense spending caps known as sequestration without corresponding spending increases for non-military programs. Party leaders have refused to do that for the last six years. To overcome Senate procedural rules, Republicans would need at least eight senators from outside their party to approve any spending plan. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. indicated that any "poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force" will force Democrats to oppose Republican budget plans, even if that means a partial government shutdown. The White House's fiscal 2017 proposal does include 1.4 billion for the first phases of building a wall along the Mexican border. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, What does this mean for the Pentagon, and rank-and-file military personnel and their families? Earlier this month, House lawmakers voted 371-48 in favor of a 578 billion spending bill to keep the military operating through September, roughly matching the White House's request but allotting the funding differently and excluding proposed cuts to non-defense programs. That measure is currently stalled in the Senate. The last extended government shutdown occurred in October 2013, resulting in unpaid furloughs for civilian workers employed by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. That disrupted some basic services on military bases and installations, and delayed implementation of some military pay and benefits. The White House spending plan for the remainder of 2017 also includes 5 billion in new funding for overseas contingency operations, including 1.4 billion for the mission in Iraq and Syria, and 1.1 billion for ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Another 2 billion for be set aside for a "flexible fund" for the war against Islamic State militants, to "maximize the impact of U.S. counter-terrorism activities and operations.", A partial shutdown this year would not affect VA operations, since its full 2017 budget was approved by Congress last fall. The administration's fiscal 2018 budget plan also includes a stark divide between defense and non-defense spending, with a 52 billion boost for the military and 64 billion in proposed cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal programs. But lawmakers must resolve spending plans for the current fiscal year before fully engaging in that debate.
Government asks high court to hear transgender military case
The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to issue an unusually quick ruling on the Pentagon's policy of restricting military service by transgender people. It's the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, with a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue. Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration's decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases. Trump's recent salvo against the "Obama judge" who ruled against his asylum policy not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary. Joshua Matz, publisher of the liberal Take Care blog, said the timing of the administration's effort to get the Supreme Court involved in the issues at an early stage could hardly be worse for Roberts and other justices who have sought to dispel perceptions that the court is merely a political institution, especially since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At an especially sensitive moment for the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is "forcing it into a minefield that many justices would almost surely prefer to avoid," Matz said. The Supreme Court almost always waits to get involved in a case until both a trial and appeals court have ruled in it. Often, the justices wait until courts in different areas of the country have weighed in and come to different conclusions about the same legal question. So it's rare for the justices to intervene early as the Trump administration has been pressing them to do. One famous past example is when the Nixon administration went to court to try to prohibit the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In the immigration case, the administration told the high court it should step in and decide the fate of DACA ahead of an appeals court's ruling because the policy otherwise could be in place until the middle of 2020 before the justices might otherwise rule. The appeals court has since ruled, but the administration's request that the court hear the case stands. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, In the military case, the administration argued that the Supreme Court should step in before an appeals court rules because the case "involves an issue of imperative public importance the authority of the U.S. military to determine who may serve in the Nation's armed forces.", The White House's late Friday announcement was influenced by the these documents. In a statement, Peter Renn, an attorney for Lambda Legal, which brought one of the challenges to the transgender military policy, called the Trump administration's action Friday a "highly unusual step" that is "wildly premature and inappropriate.", The Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military in 2016, under President Barack Obama's administration. But the Trump administration revisited that policy, with Trump ultimately issuing an order banning most transgender troops from serving in the military except under limited circumstances. Several lawsuits were filed over the administration's policy change, with lower courts all ruling against the Trump administration. Still ongoing in lower courts are the census and climate change cases. The Supreme Court for now has refused to block the climate change trial. In the census question case, the court has agreed to decide what kind of evidence a trial judge can consider and indefinitely put off questioning of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. But it rejected an administration request to delay the trial and allowed other depositions to take place. The court will hear arguments in the census question case in February. It's unclear when it will act on the administration's other requests.
Diplomats ousted US Europe punish Russia over spy case
WASHINGTON The United States and more than a dozen European nations kicked out Russian diplomats on Monday and the Trump administration ordered Russia's consulate in Seattle to close, as the West sought joint punishment for Moscow's alleged poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain. Warning of an "unacceptably high" number of Russian spies in the U.S. the Trump administration said 60 diplomats would be expelled all Russian intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, the U.S. said. The group includes a dozen posted to Russia's mission to the United Nations who the officials said were engaged in "aggressive collection" of intelligence on American soil. The move was one of the most significant actions President Donald Trump's administration has taken to date to punish Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially over its intelligence activities. The last time they spoke, less than a week ago, Trump congratulated Putin for his re-election but didn't raise the March 4 spy poisoning, Russia's alleged election-meddling in the U.S. or its own tainted voting process, prompting dismayed critiques even from Trump's fellow Republicans. "This is the largest expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in United States history," said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman. The American penalties were echoed by announcements in European capitals across the continent, including those in Russia's backyard. All told, 18 countries were ousting more than 100 Russian spies, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, in addition to 23 already kicked out by the U.K. The list included at least 16 European Union nations, with more likely to follow. Germany, Poland and France each planned to boot four, the Czech Republic three and Italy two. Ukraine, a non-EU country with its own conflicts with Moscow, was expelling 13 Russians, President Petro Poroshenko said. All three Baltic states said they would kick diplomats out. Canada, too, said it was taking action, kicking out four and denying three who have applied to enter the country. Almost all of the countries said publicly that the Russian diplomats they were expelling were actually spies. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, The expulsions came with a chorus of condemnation for the Kremlin for the poisoning, Russian spying and other Western grievances. Poland's Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz called it "the right response to the unfriendly, aggressive actions of Russia." In the Czech Republic, where Russian officials have claimed the poison may have originated, Prime Minister Andrej Babis dismissed that allegation as "an utter lie.", In Washington, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov, was summoned early Friday to the State Department and told that the 60 diplomats would have one week to leave the country, the State Department said. Russia's Embassy in Washington responded on Twitter by hinting at retaliation, asking its followers to vote which U.S. consulate should be shuttered St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg or Vladivostok. Russia will likely respond quid pro quo using the "principle of reciprocity," the Kremlin said a suggestion that Russia may expel an equal number of diplomats. Russia's Consulate General in Seattle must close by April 2. The facility is a particular counter-intelligence concern to the U.S. because of its proximity to a U.S. Navy base, said the senior U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to be identified by name. The U.S. actions appeared to signal an increased level of concern about the extent of Russian spying in the United States. Senior officials said they estimated Russia had roughly 100 intelligence officials at its diplomatic posts in the U.S. suggesting that dozens will remain even after the 60 are expelled. "The United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct," said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump's envoy to the U.N. Britain had already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being undeclared intelligence agents, which led Russia to expel the same number of British diplomats. The European Union has already recalled its ambassador to Russia. The steps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean add to a serious escalation of tensions between Russia and the West that has been building since the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer convicted of spying for the U.K. and his daughter, Yulia. The two remain in critical condition and unconscious. A policeman who responded to their home was also injured. Britain has accused Moscow of perpetrating the attack using a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok. The U.S. France and Germany have agreed it's highly likely Russia was responsible. Russia's government has denied responsibility and has blasted Britain's investigation into the poisoning. Monday's expulsions appear to involve the largest number of Russians kicked out of the United States since 1986, when the Reagan administration expelled 55. The George W. Bush administration expelled 50 Russians in 2001 in retaliation for the Robert Hanssen spy case. In its waning days, the Obama administration expelled 35 over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has repeatedly wavered on whether he believes Moscow was behind the election-meddling, despite assessments from U.S. intelligence agencies and the special counsel investigation into Russia's actions and potential collusion with Trump's campaign. But this month, Trump's administration hit Russians with its first sanctions for the campaign interference, and also accused Moscow of an elaborate plot to hack America's electric grid and key infrastructure.
Pentagon investigators slam militarys oversight of supply ships
The Navy's failure to oversee maintenance of supply ships operated by contractors has gotten so bad that one "developed a hole in the hull" while it was transporting Marine Corps gear to an exercise and never made it to its destination, according to a Pentagon Inspector General report released last month. The IG's probe lambastes the sea service's Military Sealift Command, or MSC, for failing to properly oversee maintenance of its prepositioned ships a fleet of vessels strategically placed around the globe and packed with supplies in case a large-scale war suddenly erupts. It is the latest alarm to be sounded over the sorry readiness woes of MSC vessels, ships with an unsexy but vital wartime mission. Between December and August, IG investigators focused on MSC's 20 prepositioned ships that are contractor-operated because they comprise the majority of the 26 prepositioning vessels. They determined that MSC officials fail to ensure these vessels are maintained or provided with preventive maintenance plans. MSC also doesn't verify that the contractors perform preventive maintenance when they say they do, IG found. "As a result, MSC is unable to accurately assess the condition and readiness of the contactor-operated ships, which has impeded the combatant commanders' ability to carry out planned operations," the report states. Navy ships that provide at-sea resupply of fuel, ammo and other surface combatant essentials have seen a surge of readiness issues in the past five years. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Navy Times Daily News Roundup, The MSC Prepositioning Program plops gear and supplies on ships bobbing in oceans across the world to ensure a rapid response due to major war or humanitarian disaster. It serves all four branches and the Defense Logistics Agency, with the services determining the cargo and funding the program. Prepositioned ships can equip and supply 16,000 Marines for a month but Corps officials alerted IG investigators to a pair of instances "where a prepositioning ship was unable to attend planned exercises because of maintenance deficiencies," the report states. MSC spokesman Troy VanLeunen told Navy Times that the ship PFC Dewayne T. Williams developed a two-centimeter by five-centimeter hole in its hull while the ship was departing Diego Garcia for an exercise in April 2017. "The ship received a temporary repair before departing for a regularly scheduled overhaul in June 2017," he said in an email. By failing to make sure the contractors performed scheduled preventive maintenance to get the most of the ships' lives, the taxpayer might have incurred nearly 140 million in recent unplanned overhaul and dry dock costs, the IG estimated. "MSC committed 544.7 million to contractors without assurance that they would execute all the required maintenance on its prepositioning fleet," the IG report states. Marine officials reported that when one ship experienced overhaul delays, it cost the Corps more than 517,000 to maintain equipment that sat out exposed to the elements, plus another 177,000 to extend a stevedore contract, the report states. The average age of the supply fleet's ships is 43 years, and Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman said this week that such ships would be vital should a conventional war break out. In other cases, MSC officials failed to train contractors on the system they're supposed to use to report problems, IG determined. One ship's chief engineer told investigators that the maintenance system only listed procedures for six of the 12 life rafts on the ship, "for several years.", That crewman also said the Navy provided no maintenance plan for upkeep of the ship's winches. These problems were exacerbated by contracts that "did not state specific requirements for the contractors' training" and use of the reporting system, according to the IG. The U.S. Army has been laying the foundations to fight once again in Europe. But if war were to break out tomorrow, the U.S. military could be hard-pressed to move the number of tanks, heavy guns and equipment it would need to face-off with Russian forces. MSC officials told IG that their agency had sought funding to fix some of the deficiencies beginning in 2013 and expected to receive a partial financial injection during the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2019. , "MSC also affirmed that it will continue to request additional funding until the effort is completed," the report states. Command spokesman VanLeunen said MSC already began undertaking several of the IG report's recommendations, including hiking management oversight and readiness assessments for the contractor-run ships. Officials implemented an enhanced inspections program and the command is updating contract language that will help ensure mariners on the ships know how to use the maintenance reporting system, he added.
After a combined 21 years of service these military working dogs got the sendoff they deserve
Air Force veterans aren't usually presented a bone with their certificate of retirement, but Astra and Marky aren't your typical airmen. The ribbon-decorated vests they wore at their joint retirement ceremony weren't unusual, nor was their combined 21 years of service. It was their tails that stood out at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. Astra and Marky are patrol explosive detector military working dogs with the 20th Security Forces Squadron. On March 14, they officially transitioned from service members to pets. "I've seen too many memorials for K9s, so I wanted something special that everybody can actually see and enjoy," said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Wolfe, 20th SFS operations superintendent, in a press release. Astra and Marky swept nearly 110,000 vehicles and facilities at Shaw and overseas, supporting Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Freedom's Sentinel, among others. Marky, who deployed six times, has a Purple Heart for injuries suffered in an explosion with his handler, according to the press release. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Army Times Daily News Roundup, Both dogs can look forward to the easy life now. , "No longer will Astra be known as military working dog," said Staff Sgt. David Mussio, 20th SFS MWD trainer and Astra's new owner, in the statement. "She gets the chance to really be a pet, no longer hearing the word no,' she gets to lay on the bed, she gets to lay on the couch, she gets to eat what she wants. She really gets to enjoy life now."
Taliban ceasefire halted fighting but not the Corps mission in Helmand
The brief few days of peace between the Taliban and Afghan government was a watershed moment for the war-torn region, when thousands of Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan's cities to join government officials in celebrating the annual Muslim holiday of Eid. The three-day cease-fire boosted hopes of ending the nearly 17-year war, with the U.S. largely relegated to the sidelines of an Afghan-led push for peace. But in the backdrop of peace talks, the Corps is continuing its mission to rebuild Afghan forces to eventually shoulder the entire burden of security in Afghanistan's most violent province, Helmand Valley, where a third rotation of Marine advisers is slated to arrive this fall to replace the current task force of nearly 300 Marines. "Our commitment to this mission is enduring," Capt. Joshua Benson, a Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times. A stream of photos on social media over Eid-al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of fasting and Ramadan, showed Taliban fighters praying alongside Afghan forces. Nevertheless, U.S. and Afghan forces were still at war with a handful of other terrorist groups who are not under Taliban leadership, underscoring the complexity of the conflict in Afghanistan. Prior to the start of the unilateral cease-fire announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on June 7, U.S. Special Forces and Afghan troops launched a major offensive, dubbed Hamaz 3, against ISIS fighters in Nangarhar province. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup, Ghani's cease-fire ultimately went into effect on the 27th day of Ramadan. The Taliban announced its own cease-fire on June 9, which kicked off on Eid, and lasted for three days. The U.S. forces in the region agreed to abide by the cease-fire declarations with exception to "U.S. counterterrorism efforts against IS-K, al-Qaida, and other regional and international terrorist groups, or the inherent right of U.S. and international forces to defend themselves," Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for the Resolute Support mission, told Marine Corps Times. And not all was quiet on the Helmand front at the outset of Ghani's cease-fire. "U.S. aircraft have conducted non-lethal shows of presence' in both Ghazni and Helmand province since Afghanistan's unilateral cease-fire began," O'Donnell said. The Reapers will be contractor owned and operated. U.S. forces also conducted a strike in Helmand that targeted al-Qaida, he said. An opium-rich province, Helmand has been a key battlefield in the Afghan conflict. Thousands of U.S. Marines have fought to secure the rural landscape from Taliban militants and to deny the insurgents access to cash from the drug trade. The Corps got out of Afghanistan for several years but returned to the volatile province in 2017 to rebuild a fledgling Afghan Army's 215th Corps. The Marines today have a new mission focused on training and advising Afghan forces and bolstering the security bubble around the beleaguered provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Today, about nine of the 14 districts in Helmand are under insurgent control or influence, according to latest figures from a government watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. "However, the Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing the key population centers in Central Helmand," said Marine Capt Aaron Reep, Afghan National Army 215th Corps operations adviser. "One of the primary goals of TFSW is to assist the Afghan forces in providing security for the highest percentage of the population possible.", The bloody province is in a bit of a stalemate however. Territory seldom changes hands if but for brief moments. Even offensive operations by the Taliban have reaped few rewards except for increasing Afghan forces' casualties and the plunder of weapons and equipment, according to SIGAR. The Corps has attempted to alter the balance of power by aiding its partner forces with U.S. airpower, drones, surveillance, and the reintroduction of the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. Since HIMARS started supporting the Corps' mission in Helmand in October 2017, the Marines have fired roughly 115 HIMARS precision rockets targeting Taliban leadership and narcotics operations, Marine Corps officials said. Those operations, coupled with TFSW's intelligence gathering capabilities, have had devastating effects destroying millions in Taliban financing operations and removing key leaders from the battlefield. Over a ten-day period from May 17-26, U.S. strikes in Helmand killed more than 70 senior Taliban leaders, defense officials said. The largest strike came from four HIMARS rockets that struck a Taliban command and control center and killed 50 including the "deputy shadow governor of Helmand, multiple Taliban district governors, intelligence commanders and key provincial-level leadership from Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Farah, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces," according to an assessment from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. "We continue to see progress in the capabilities and professionalism of the Afghan National Army 215th Corps and 505th Zone Afghan National Police, especially in the use of organic Afghan aviation and indirect fire support," Benson told Marine Corps Times. "The Marine advisers at the Regional Military Training Center at Camp Shorabak continue to have significant impacts in developing the proficiency of Afghan infantry kandaks that rotate through the eight-week Operational Readiness Cycle training course.", But peace in Afghanistan appears to be elusive, though not impossible, and Helmand is likely to serve as a major spoiler to any peace deal. "Helmand is a particularly difficult problem because there the war is over control of the multibillion-dollar drug business, not just politics," said Barnett Rubin, senior fellow and associate director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. "I am afraid that the major drug traders will be key actors in any peace process, not just Taliban and government. We will have difficult choices because they will oppose peace if it means a crackdown on narcotics. Peace will require a gradual approach to counter-narcotics, not a zero-tolerance approach," Rubin said. Some analysts believe Taliban fighters are disillusioned with the never-ending fight and that may drive a wedge between forces fighting in the field and senior Taliban leadership. But the Taliban's cease-fire ended abruptly while Ghani offered to extend the cease-fire, the Taliban ordered its fighters back to the battlefield and attacks resumed, suggesting the group to be more cohesive than originally believed. "The cease-fire refuted the thesis that the Taliban are fractured or splintered. They behaved as a single disciplined organization obeying their leadership," Rubin said. Nevertheless, the ability to implement a cease-fire may bode well for potential peace prospects. But what would peace look like in Afghanistan and what kind of concessions will the Afghan government make to the Taliban?, Analysts have argued whether the Afghan government would be willing to part with territory or potentially use Helmand as a bargaining chip. "There is no possibility of a settlement in which Taliban are given control of some provinces. Both the government and the Taliban are opposed to dividing Afghanistan in that way. Taliban could participate in the power structure in the areas where they are influential," Rubin said.
Revealed The new structure for the Pentagons tech and acquisition offices
LONDON Pentagon leaders, already worried about the emerging technologies that will shape the next generation of war, have reorganized their leadership structure to emphasize quantum science, artificial intelligence and directed energy, Defense News has learned. The new effort is a major restructuring for the two Pentagon offices that determine how the Department of Defense buys and develops weapon systems. Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan approved the changes in a July 13 memo, obtained by Defense News. The 17-page document lays out the organizational charts for the offices of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, as well their responsibilities. The two offices were created Feb. 1, when Congress required the former Acquisition, Technology and Logistics ATL office to be divided. A potential organization chart was published in August, but the new document features significant changes, particularly on the RE side. Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza confirmed that Shanahan's memorandum has been provided to Congress, as well as briefed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. "USD RE and USD AS have been briefing the Congress throughout the reorganization process and will continue to do so. We have long said that this process will take time to complete. The signing of this memorandum is just one step in the reorganization," Baldanza told Defense News. Here's how the two offices will operate, Research and Engineering, The research and engineering office is tasked with focusing on the future, or as the memo puts it, serve "as the chief technical officer of the Department with the mission of advancing technology and innovation.", Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Get breaking news in your inbox, The new plan includes a deputy undersecretary who reports directly to Griffin and who oversees all other offices reporting to the deputy. The setup does not include assistant secretary or deputy assistant secretary jobs but instead, all offices are marked as directorates. The individual offices reporting directly to the deputy include the Pentagon's DIUx commercial tech hub, the Strategic Capabilities Office, the Strategic Intelligence Analysis Cell, the Missile Defense Agency, and DARPA. The memo calls for two "Directors of Defense Research Engineering," Research Technology and Advanced Capabilities. Baldanza confirmed that those two offices are equivelent to assistnat secretary levels, but said they do not need to be confirmed by the Senate. Click here to view a PDF of the RE chart, The breakdown reflects the RE focus on high-end technologies. There are five assistant directors listed under the Defense Research and Engineering office microelectronics, cyber, quantum science, directed energy and machine learning. Under the Advanced Capabilities office, there are four assistant directors networked C3, space, autonomy and hypersonics. In this setup, it appears Griffin's job will be to serve as an overseer on programs to ensure they are not outdated by the time they come to fruition, and that long-term challenges and capability needs are understood. Under the memo guidance, Griffin is to provide "technical risk assessments" and advise the Secretary of Defense on potential future concerns, including interoperability and cyber capability throughout the lifecycle of the program before any approval of a Milestone A or Milestone B decision. When requested, the office will provide an independent estimate of whether the program correctly "anticipates the evolution of capabilities to meet the changing threats, technology insertion, and interoperability and be fielded when needed, prior to the obligation of funds for technology development, systems development, or production.", Acquisition and Sustainment, This office continues to have the bulk of the authorities that were issued to ATL. As with previous hierarchies, there are three assistant secretary roles acquisition, sustainment and nuclear/chem/bio. However, the various sub-offices in those three chains have been changed, most notably for Kevin Fahey, the ASD for acquisition. He told reporters July 16 that his office will be focused on "enablers," and the new offices listed appear to trend in that direction. As with RE, the new hierarch calls for a deputy undersecretary who reports to Lord, with all other offices reporting to the deputy. Another significant change since an August organizational tree the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy had been listed as reporting to the assistant secretary for acquisition. Now, that office reports directly to the deputy undersecretary of defense, in a move that reflects the importance of the industrial base to the Pentagon. The office will also be renamed from its current "Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy" title to just Industrial Base, with the manufacturing aspect moving over to RE. In addition, the small business office will now report to the Industrial Base office. Eric Chewning, who holds that role, told reporters July 16 that his office would change its direction to ensure a greater focus on industrial base issues. Click here to view a PDF of the AS chart, "There's a real need to get back to what I'll call a real industrial policy capability within the Pentagon, to address the sorts of problems that we know we're going to face going forward," Chewning said. In addition, the current assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment appears to have disappeared from the chart, with the three DASDs reporting up to that office now reporting to the ASD for sustainment. There are four director-level positions that report to the deputy Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, Special Programs, Strategy, Data and Design and International Cooperation. There had been some question about whether International Cooperation would end up on the RE side in some capacity, but the authorities spelled out in the document specify that Lord received oversight of international technology development, with the memo ordering that AS work with the undersecretary for policy to establish and manage "the cooperative RD program, and promote the establishment of mutually beneficial international cooperative RD programs consistent with national security considerations." It also directs AS to oversee international technology work with NATO. In terms of authorities and missions, those listed line up with what has largely been expected- AS will have oversight on large, existing issues. One that appears to be new ordering AS to establish and maintain the "DoD management and administrative structure for Modeling and Simulation MS," as well as leading an executive council on MS, which involves developing "policies, plans, and programs to coordinate, harmonize, and rationalize DoD MS, including the DoD Modeling and Simulation Master Plan and Investment Plans.", Interestingly, the memo specifically calls out a role for the AS structure to combat China on the industrial front. "In support of National Defense Strategy objectives, conducting geo-economic analysis and assessments to inform the development of industrial policies to maximize U.S. competitive advantage in an era of great power competition and counter strategies from competitor nations such as China," it read.
Congress to MDA Prepare for spacebased missile attacks
WASHINGTON Congress made another aggressive push for space-based missile defense by carving out language in the fiscal 2018 defense policy bill that asks the Missile Defense Agency to develop capabilities to track and respond to missile attacks from space. Specifically, the bill would require MDA to develop both a persistent space-based sensor architecture and a space-based ballistic missile intercept layer. The language also teases out what could be the Pentagon's recommendations stemming from the yet-to-be-released Ballistic Missile Defense Review expected by the year's end. Because it hasn't been published, conferees placed a caveat in all sections of missile defense language in the report stating that the MDA should only commence with strategies and plans in the National Defense Authorization Act if they are consistent with the recommendations of the review. Some experts believe that gaining space-based missile defense capability may be more critical to outpacing the threat than anything that can be done to improve the system on the ground. They say that space-sensors increase the lethality and effectiveness of ground-based interceptors within the GMD system but also add capability to other elements of the overall system, such as the Patriot missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the Aegis system. Ahead of the release of the new administration's first budget request, U.S. defense officials are pushing to renew the effort to get missile-tracking sensors into space. Congress wants the MDA to develop "a highly reliable and cost-effective" persistent space-based sensor architecture designed to perform a variety of functions to include "control of increased raid sizes," "precision tracking of threat missiles," fire-control quality tracks of evolving threat missiles," "discrimination of warheads," and "effective kill assessments.", The layer should also be able to integrate with command-and-control battle management systems within the BMDS and integrate with other elements like THAAD, Aegis, Aegis Ashore and Patriot. Congress requires the MDA to deliver a plan no later than one year past the enactment of the law on how it will develop the sensor architecture including cost estimates and an acquisition plan to include operation and sustainment over the course of the life of the system. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, The plan should also include an assessment of the maturity levels of critical technologies needed and how technologies can be rapidly matured. And the MDA should also include an analysis of what new capabilities the architecture bring that are not already part of other sensor architectures. The report also requires the MDA to develop a space-based ballistic missile intercept layer that is regionally focused, capable of intercepting threats in the boost-phase of flight, and achieves an operational capability "at the earliest practicable date.", The Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Review is underway and lawmakers, through both the House and Senate defense policy bills, are signalling the direction they want to go when it comes to developing the future defense architecture against both regional and homeland missile threats. Congress is giving the MDA one year past the enactment of the legislation to produce a plan to achieve the capability over a 10-year period, according to the report. Lawmakers want a concept definition phase as part of the plan that would consist of multiple contract awards "to identify feasible solutions consistent with architectural principles, performance goals and price points.", Following that, conferees also want a technology risk reduction phase with three competitively awarded contracts to mature technologies, algorithms, components and subsystems, the report states. This phase would produce a "medium-to-high fidelity" digital representation of an intercept weapon system and a test schedule that leads to a live-fire boost phase intercept during fiscal year 2022 if the technology is mature, according to the legislation. A technology development phase would result in two competitively awarded contracts to mature the weapon system concepts and potentially conduct the FY-22 live-fire. Congress is also requiring the MDA to establish a space test bed for the weapon systems to conduct research and development for a space-based defensive layer to include space-based interceptors and directed energy platforms. Also tackling the boost-phase intercept challenge, Congress wants the agency to "rapidly" develop and demonstrate a boost phase intercept capability "as soon as practicable," the report states. The demonstration should incorporate existing technologies and be developed in cooperation with U.S. Pacific Command to address "emerging threats and heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific region," according to the report. The reports asks the defense secretary to submit with the president's fiscal year 2019 budget request a plan to achieve the boost-phase capability requirement to include funding and a test schedule.
Tech problems shut down DoD spouse scholarship program
Military spouses eligible for up to 4,000 in tuition assistance through a Defense Department program can't apply for the benefit thanks to technical problems that have extended a planned July server outage into August. The planned updates to the My Career Advancement Account online portal, including the move to a new website, were slated to run July 19-27. The site remains down after encountering what officials characterized as "unforeseen technical issues" in a Monday Facebook post. The program is open to spouses of active-duty service members in paygrades E-1 to E-5, W-1 and W-2, and O-1 and O-2, including spouses of activated members of the Guard and Reserve Title 10 orders in those same paygrades. It allows spouses to pursue job-related licenses, credentials or academic degrees from MyCAA scholarship-approved accredited colleges, universities or technical schools. Could this be a first step in expanding the MyCAA program to more military spouses?, Via social media and in a statement to Military.com, officials said they are working on a temporary plan that would allow eligible spouses to apply for and manage their MyCAA accounts over the phone. Updates on that plan, and on the website's relaunch, will be posted at the Defense Department's Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Facebook page, officials said. A Defense Department spokeswoman told Military.com that spouses already registered with SECO via Military OneSource would receive updates via email, or via phone if requested.
S400 Strengthens Chinas Hand in the Skies
TAIPEI A deal between Russia and China for procurement of the new S-400 air defense system will serve as a force multiplier for Beijing in its quest to dominate the skies along its borders, experts said. The 400-kilometer-range system will, for the first time, allow China to strike any aerial target on the island of Taiwan, in addition to reaching , the missile system will let China reach air targets as far as New Delhi, Calcutta, Hanoi and Seoul. Total coverage of The Yellow Sea and China's new air defense identification zone ADIZ in the East China Sea will also be protected. The system will permit China, if need be, to strike any air target within North Korea. The S-400 will also allow China to extend, but not dominate, the air defense space closer to the disputed Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, said Vasiliy Kashin, a China defense specialist at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Moscow. China refers to the islands as the Diaoyu, and tensions between Beijing and Japan have been increasing for over the past several years as China continues to claim the islands. China's current inventory of S-300s, at a range of 300 kilometers, only allows it to strike targets along Taiwan's northwestern coast and cannot reach has no range against capital cities in India and South Korea, said Alexander Huang, chairman, Council on Strategic and Wargaming Studies, Taipei. The S-400 will present a significant challenge to Taiwan's ability to conduct air defense operations within its own ADIZ, which covers the Taiwan Strait. , "Of course, these new systems will also give China extra capability to deter and deny hostile air threats, making regional forces more cautious when operating near China," Huang said. Rosoboronexport CEO Anatoly Isaikin announced the sale made the announcement on April 13. He told news media outlets that the S-400 was in demand in the international market and that China would be the first export customer. No specifics were revealed, but the actual contract was most likely signed in the last quarter of 2014, Kashin said. He said believes the deal will include four to six 4-6 battalions at about US 3 billion. , The S-400 is capable of intercepting missiles and air breathing targets, he said. Rosoboronexport, Russia's state defense export agency, did not respond to Defense News DN requests for additional information. Rosoboronexport is the Russian state's defense export agency. The S-400 is a decent system and an evolutionary progression of China's air and missile defense modernization, said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute. "It would be interesting to know what specific missile variant is being exported, and where the systems would be deployed," he said. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, He said the Deployment of S-400 systems opposite Taiwan could naturally would drive increased Taiwan to increase investment into asymmetric capabilities designed to exploit vulnerabilities in China's air defenses, he said. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense MND is not surprised by the revelation and the military is was keeping a close watch on developments, said Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he, MND spokesman. He said Russia and China have cooperated closely had close cooperation on military issues for decades, he said, including arms sales and exchanges of defense technology. "To cope with the potential threat of this new system, the ROC Taiwan armed forces has already completed its analysis of the missile threat, and tweaked its tactics and strategies to reflect countermeasures for engaging the S-400," he said. Luo said Flight training by Taiwan's armed forces would still continue as planned and remain unaffected by the new system, Luo said . "In the future, the ROC military will continue to keep a close eye on China as the S-400 begins deployment and take precautions for any possible new contingencies.", Kashin said China is gradually improving its long-range air defense missile production capabilities, but still lags behind Russia in this area. Chinese systems can sometimes compete effectively be strong competitors on the international markets, "but that was achieved not so much by the system capabilities but by Chinese willingness to provide favorable financial conditions and to transfer technology," he said. China would no doubt attempt to reverse engineer the S-400, as it has done with previous sales of the S-300, but reverse engineering is time consuming, Kashin said, and Russia is . Any attempt to steal the technology would be a waste of energy for the Chinese, especially since the Russians are now working on the next-generation system, the S-500. The S-500 is expected to enter serial production in 2017 roughly, the same time China receives its first S-400 delivery, Kashin said. Email wminnick@defensenews.com
DoD Embraces Commercial Space Boom But Warns of Its Limits
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. From reusable rocket engines to hypersonic spaceplanes, the Pentagon is looking to leverage a recent boom in commercial space innovation for military applications. But not all missions can be outsourced, according to one top military official. Space Command Chief Gen. John Hyten laid out the case for the Defense Department's continued dominance of the space arena here at the Space Foundation's annual National Space Symposium. The US Air Force will control the vast space surveillance network for the foreseeable future, he emphasized during a Thursday media briefing. The Air Force is currently managing space traffic for the entire world by default, analyzing data and maneuvering assets in orbit to make sure they don't collide with each other or with free-floating debris. The Joint Functional Component Command for Space and the 14th Air Force is responsible for tracking about 23,000 objects in space each day, and sends warnings to operators around the globe to prevent accidents. DoD officials and members of Congress, most notably Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla. have urged the Air Force in recent months to outsource some of the responsibility for space traffic management and situational awareness to a civil or commercial entity. The command and control piece of space trafficking in other words, the conjunction reporting and collision avoidance can be done commercially for a lower cost, Bridenstine argues. Bridenstine's American Space Renaissance Act, officially unveiled this week at the Space Symposium, proposes that the Federal Aviation Administration's office of commercial space transportation take over that burden, leveraging unclassified information from Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center JSPOC as well as commercial data. "I would prefer that I take the airmen today that are doing basically collision avoidance and orbital analysis across the board for everybody else, and if somebody else could do that and I could focus those airmen on other missions, I'd be much happier," Hyten said Thursday. "We shouldn't be doing flight safety for everybody in the world, we should be focused on missions for the Department of Defense.", Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, But the Pentagon wants to keep certain information out of the public domain. Much of that sensitive data is gathered via satellite and analyzed alongside unclassified communications by the JSPOC at Vanderberg Air Force Base, California. "Here's the catch the catch is that the United States Air Force and the United States military are going to operate the space surveillance network from now as long as you can foresee," Hyten said. "We do that mission for space control, we don't do that mission for space traffic management, and we're going to do that mission for space control as long as you can see into the future.", Hyten supports a path forward where the JSPOC provides data to the FAA so the civil agency can do the collision avoidance, he said. But "we have to make sure that we end up where we don't have competing catalogues," he said. "If all you are talking about is tracking rocks, because actually in order to do flight safety you don't need to know what the thing is, you just need to know where it is and where is it moving," Hyten said. "So if you can just say, 'Here are the rocks, do your collision avoidance,' then that's okay.", As robust and innovative as the modern commercial space sector is, industry alone will never be able to build certain capabilities, according to Hyten. For example, the 914 million Space Fence will increase the objects the DoD tracks in space by a factor of 10, he said. The Pentagon will examine opportunities to work with commercial companies that are producing high volumes of small, nimble spacecraft as part of the new Space Enterprise Vision rolled out earlier this week, Hyten said Thursday. Investing in a distributed space architecture made up of hundreds or thousands of miniature systems, instead of just a few expensive, large satellites, could potentially reduce costs and enhance resilience against hostiles, experts contend. But while these small commercial satellites will play a role in certain missions, they are limited in capability, Hyten said Thursday. Miniature spacecraft open many doors, but they will never be able to do the nuclear-hardened command and control mission, for instance, he said. "People keep thinking that small satellites are the solution to lots of problems," Hyten said. "The problem with small satellites is if you want to communicate with an 18-inch disk on a Humvee in the middle of the desert someplace and you want to do it from 22,300 miles away, physics tells you that you have to have a giant antenna with a lot of power.", Email lseligman@defensenews.com, Twitter @laraseligman
The Air Forces next step after its light attack demo A combat trial
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. This month, three industry teams will hand over four different light attack aircraft to Air Force pilots for a series of flight demonstrations to test just how well the aircraft can prosecute targets on the ground while operating in austere desert environments. Those that prove their mettle will move on until the next phase of the experiment a combat demonstration in the Middle East. Specifically, planes could participate in the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters Wednesday. The Air Force won't know for sure whether it will pursue a combat demonstration until the experiment at Holloman Air Force Base is finished. Then, the service will take the data it has collected and assess the aircraft cost, capability and the manufacturer's production capacity. "That data is intended to inform strategic decisions. It will also tell us whether we take this to the next step, to what we call a combat experiment, and whether any of these aircraft are ready for that," Wilson said. "That combat experiment could take place early next year.", Reporters headed to Holloman AFB on Wednesday to get a glimpse of the four aircraft participating in the demo the A-29 from Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer, the AT-802L Longsword by L3 and Air Tractor, and the AT-6 Wolverine and Scorpion jet, both by Textron. They weren't the only interested parties. Several top Air Force officials also visited the base to observe the experiment, including Wilson Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who flew both the A-29 and AT-6 today Gen. Mike Holmes, who heads Air Combat Command and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service's top uniformed acquisition official. Representatives from about a dozen international partner militaries also attended, including members from Canada, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Paraguay. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Military Space Report, Although there is no real winner of the light attack demo, the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6 Wolverine already seem to be a step ahead of the other options in terms of moving on to the next phase. Both aircraft have been categorized as "tier one" by the service for the purpose of the experiment, meaning that they meet all of the Air Force's objectives, which include the ability to take off from unimproved fields and having an ejection seat. Should the Air Force decide to press on with a combat demonstration, it would likely continue to evaluate those two planes, Bunch said. "If the two tier ones' are successful in executing the first phase of the experiment and they want to continue to participate in the experiment, we plan to work with the combatant commanders to utilize both of those resources if they want to go forward," he said. But the "tier two" offerings the Scorpion jet and AT-802L won't necessarily be left behind. "I believe the tier twos are going to learn from this. I believe they are going to understand what we were looking for," Bunch said. "They now have our criteria that were in the invitation to participate, so I think they'll analyze that, they'll go back and look at their systems, and then they can advance those.", Or those companies may choose to go a different direction with their platforms. The experiment's criteria were heavily centered around the needs of Air Combat Command, Bunch acknowledged. However, the requirements of other potential customers, such as the special operations community or international partners, may be different. If Wilson and Goldfein approve a combat demonstration, Air Combat Command ACC will take the reins from Air Force Materiel Command, which is executing the experiment at Holloman, Holmes said. Col. Michael "Starbaby" Pietrucha, ACC's staff lead for light attack, said the command is already starting to consider how it could execute a combat demonstration. Though much is still to be determined, the demo will likely involve bringing light attack aircraft to the Middle East and having it fill in for other aircraft, like the F-16 or A-10, when low-end missions need to be executed. A future combat exercise might also emphasize the aircraft's ability to network with coalition ground forces. "If we decide to move forward with a combat demo, we will take what we've learned and then take that forward with some kind of a low cost network," Holmes said. "It might be a cellphone. It might be an iPad, taking advantage of networks that are already there in some of these places."
Boeing pushes back on the KC46 programs bad reputation with the Air Force
SEATTLE Boeing has now racked up more than 3 billion worth of pretax charges on the KC-46 due to cost overruns and schedule delays, but the head of its defense business told reporters Thursday that the program's problems are, for the most part, in the rearview mirror. Last week, the company disclosed another 81 million-pretax penalty on the program in its financial report for the first quarter of 2018. , Leanne Caret, the CEO of Boeing's defense sector, put a positive spin on the cost growth, saying that the expense indicates the work that is being done to get the product right as the company sprints toward a contractual obligation to deliver 18 certified tankers this year. "The charges we took are tied to the certification efforts and the test efforts as we continue to finish up towards first delivery," she said Thursday during a media visit to the company's KC-46 production facilities in Everett, Washington. , According to the terms of Boeing's fixed-price development contract with the U.S. Air Force, the company is responsible for any costs over the 4.9 billion award. "I think what you're seeing is that the amount of charges has continually decreased over time, again showing there has been no new technical issues," Caret said. "But we are still in a development program, and I want to make certain that the capability we're delivering to the war fighter meets their intent. So we'll do the right thing as we move forward, as we have historically.", The past several months have been difficult ones for the KC-46 development program as Boeing comes down to the wire in its efforts to deliver the first tanker this summer. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Military Space Report, Caret has also maintained that the company can meet the "required assets available" obligation, or RAA, to deliver a total of 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods this year although the actual deadline is in October. "This isn't about one aircraft, and then we're going to get started on another one," she said. "We have an entire fleet of tankers here, and as we head toward the first delivery, we're going to be able to start really ramping up and getting these to the customers the way we need." , But the Air Force is more pessimistic, saying that its assessments show that the first delivery will likely not occur until the end of the year, with RAA occurring some time next spring. , Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has been publicly dismissive of the Boeing's progress, telling lawmakers that the company has perhaps been too focused on its lucrative commercial business to give the tanker program the attention it deserves. "One of our frustrations with Boeing is they're much more focused on their commercial activity than on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these aircraft to the Air Force. And that's the message we took to them in Seattle last week," Wilson told lawmakers in March. Boeing obviously sought to combat that perception during its media trip, in which reporters spoke with the men and women fabricating the refueling booms, installing the wiring, flight testing the aircraft and performing quality control at its Everett Modification Center. There, reporters saw four KC-46s awaiting the final touches inside, another seven tankers outside the facility and eight KC-46s about 40 miles away at Boeing Field. In total, Boeing has 34 KC-46s in some stage of production, and the first four aircraft planned for delivery have already flown and are in storage. Caret, who took the top Boeing defense gig in February 2016, told reporters that she wanted them to understand the magnitude of work being accomplished in Washington state and the passion of the company's workers. Overall, the picture she gave of the program's trajectory was sunny and sometimes at odds with the Air Force perception of Boeing continually overselling how quickly it will be able to fulfill its delivery obligations. She downplayed tension with the Air Force, saying that she was "totally in line with them in terms of their sense of frustration" on the program. Although Air Force leaders have said they are dissatisfied with Boeing's performance, Caret said Boeing had not made any "specific change" to production efforts because the company had already devoted its full resources to its No. 1 program. , "The real disconnect is working through flow times," she said. "There's a lot of paperwork associated with delivering a system such as this, working through our paperwork, working through the FAA and the military paperwork and making sure all of those flows align, and that's what we're in conversations with the government on, and it's collaborative.", In order to be fully certified, the KC-46 must receive an amended type certificate for the aircraft's commercial systems and a supplemental type certificate for its military-specific systems. So far, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued an ATC, and the aircraft in April wrapped up the testing necessary for the STC. , The next step will involve additional flight tests with the C-17, F-16 and KC-135 to ensure those aircraft can receive fuel from the KC-46, as well as closing out a key deficiency with the aircraft's remote visual system that must be corrected before delivery. So does that mean the Air Force should be doing more to make receiver aircraft available and to expedite the testing process?, "This is a team sport," Caret said. "We all collectively need to make certain that we're doing all the proper analysis, that we're having the right conversations. So I feel very comfortable with our relationship with the U.S. Air Force and the transparency that we have. , "We collectively work together to look at every opportunity, likewise every risk to make sure that there's a balance going forward and we're doing the right thing for the war fighter.",
The Corps is dishing out big bonuses for grunts and other jobs Heres whats in it for you
The Corps' latest Selective Retention Bonuses are packing all kinds of goodies for a slew of job fields, but this year's plan dishes out nearly 70,000 for qualified Marines in specific infantry billets. New for this year are kickers for air traffic controllers, infantry squad leaders and a series of squad leader initiatives to boost the lethality of the Corps. The Corps is planning to dole out nearly 136 million in fiscal year 2019 in bonuses and kickers to incentivize Marines to stay in. "There are three infantry squad leader initiatives intended to increase lethality in the Ground Combat Element by focusing corporals and sergeants who have completed or will commit to completing Infantry Small Unit Leader Course ISULC and have between 5 to 7 years of time in service," Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Manpower Reserve Affairs, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement. Squad Leader Development Program Marines re-enlisting for 36-48 months and lateral moving into the primary job field of infantry squad leader, or 0365, are eligible for 30,000. The bonus applies to FTAP Marines First Term Alignment Program in the primary job fields of 0311 riflemen, 0341 mortarmen, 0351 infantry assault and 0352 anti-tank missile gunner. Marines must remain in the operational force for a minimum of 36 months and are eligible for the 72-month lateral move kicker of 40,000, which can net qualified Marines a total of 70,000. Lateral move kickers are for Marines re-enlisting for 72-months and lateral moving to specific job fields. Squad Leader OpFor Kicker Marines re-enlisting for 48 months are eligible for 20,000. The bonus applies to FTAP corporals and sergeants hailing from the 0311 field who intend to become ISULC complete or are already ISULC complete. The Marines must agree to remain in the infantry battalions for 24 months. The kicker can be added to any additional primary job field bonus. If an 0311 Marine has a job field bonus of 4,500, he can earn up to 24,500 with the kicker. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup, 24-Month Qualified Rifle Squad Leader Initiative First-term 0311 corporals and sergeants who are ISULC complete can get 10,000 if they extend for 24 months. The Marines must remain in the infantry battalions during the extension. Also new this year Kickers for air traffic controllers. Zone A and B Marines who re-enlist for 48 months with the primary occupation of 7257, or air traffic controller, and hold or intend to gain an necessary military occupational specialty, or NMOS, of 7252, 7253 or 7254 will get a 20,000 kicker on top of any primary MOS bonus. Zone A Marines have between 17 months and six years of service while Zone B Marines have between 6 and 10 years. Aircraft maintainers stand to make a lot of cash depending on their zone and qualifications. The Corps is dishing out 20,000 kickers for aircraft maintainers from corporal to gunny who re-enlist for 48 months and are holding current qualifications of collateral duty inspector, quality assurance collateral duty representative, quality assurance representative or safe for flight. The Marine must be willing to remain with a maintainer unit for the first 24 months after completion of the Marine's first contract. An F-35B maintainer in Zone B with the right qualifications who re-ups for 48 months and agrees to stay on station gets the 20,000 kicker and a primary MOS bonus of 30,000, for a total of 50,000. There's also a 20,000 kicker for Marines who re-up for 48 months and volunteer for recruiting, drill instructor or Marine Security Guard Detachment Commander. These kickers are predicated on the Marine obtaining these job fields and completing necessary training. "Kickers were highly effective in FY18 Early Reenlistment Kicker resulted in more than 2000 submissions above average SDA Kicker resulted in more than 1000 volunteers Aircraft Maintenance, 672 qualified Marines opted to remain in flying squadrons and 411 of 493 FTAP Lat Moves elected the 72-month Kicker," Carlock told Marine Corps Times. Big this year are bonuses for Marines lateral moving into recon, counter intel, cyber or those looking to become elite special operators with the Raiders. On top of the 50,000 bonus a sergeant can net moving into these fields, he or she also rates a 72-month lateral move kicker, meaning these job fields can fill a Marine's wallet with 90,000 in cash. The Corps is dishing out up to 10,000 on top of any Selective Retention Bonus for Marines across Zones A, B or C in specific job fields specified in the MARADMIN if they re-enlist for 48 months between July 5 and September 30. To see a detailed list of the requirements and information related to bonuses and kickers check out the recent MARADMIN.
This battalion commander tried to withhold holiday time off for recruiters who didnt make quotas
Army Recruiting Command is undermanned and tasked with filling a large gap of recruits after missing last year's goal. Though the service is trying to fill those recruiter slots and coming up with new marketing to get young Americans in the door, there have been a handful of drastic measures floated this year, and the most recent one came from Army Recruiting Mid-Atlantic. That battalion commander ordered that only soldiers and station commanders who'd met a certain quota would get to work a holiday schedule, according to a memo posted Thursday by U.S. Army WTF Moments. "The recruiting brigade commander has rescinded this battalion directive, as it is not in line with U.S. Army Recruiting Command headquarters or brigade policy or guidance," USAREC spokeswoman Kelli Bland told Army Times on Friday. Lt. Col. Keith Bryant had targeted recruiting station commanders who hadn't made their first quarter goals, as well as individual recruiters with fewer than three enlistments since October. Rather than taking half days or working every other day from Dec. 20 through Jan. 2, the official holiday period, they would have to work normal hours. And during those hours, if they were not already cleared for holiday leave, they would be doing mandatory training with the battalion command sergeant major. "Battalion commanders had the ability to determine if half days or day-on/day-off schedules would work best in their formations for non-holiday days," Bland said. "Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 are both training holidays for USAREC, so there are two four-day weekends during the holiday break.", It's not the first time the Army's recruiting commanders have taken unusual measures to enforce productivity. In a memo made public in May, a Texas recruiting brigade commander put together a memo ordering longer hours and more Saturday shifts for his recruiters, but the commander never signed the memo and pushed it out. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Army Times Daily News Roundup, The Army is extending retention control points for some mid-grade NCOs. And in April, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey proposed involuntarily sending some NCOs with recruiting experience on temporary duty to help with the summer busy season. The Army fell 6,500 recruits short of its goal for 2018, and this year is trying to bring in another 66,000. Meanwhile, retention is historically high. "We're on glide path to make our 2019 retention goal by June," Dailey told Army Times on Tuesday. It's likely that senior leaders will consider adjusting the recruiting goal to balance the authorized end strength number with the surge of soldiers signing on for another enlistment, he added.
Benefits basics Commissaries and exchanges
, Commissaries and exchanges have undergone some major changes in the last year, with more proposals on the horizon that would affect the benefits ... including a proposal by Defense Department officials to consolidate the programs. What you need to know about both, What they are Commissaries are on-base stores that sell discounted groceries to authorized customers. Exchanges are on-base stores with an online component that sell a variety of items ranging from clothing and shoes to toys, furniture, home appliances and electronics. They have on-base gas stations and stores that sell alcoholic beverages. Eligibility As of Veterans Day 2017, all honorably discharged veterans can shop at online exchanges. This has opened up the exchange online shopping benefit to about 13 million additional veterans who didn't previously have any military shopping benefits. Otherwise, veterans who don't retire from the military generally don't have exchange or commissary privileges. This veterans benefit doesn't apply to brick-and-mortar stores. By the end of 2017, more than 56,000 veterans had shopped at Shopmyexchange.com using the tax-free benefit. In general, anyone with a valid military ID card can shop in commissary and exchange stores and online. Also eligible are 100 percent disabled veterans, surviving spouses, and former spouses with dependent children. The details For decades, commissary items were sold at cost from the manufacturer or distributor, plus a 5 percent surcharge used to build and renovate stores. That changed in 2017, when officials began using new authority to raise and lower prices responding, they said, to outside-the-gate competition. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Pay and Benefits Report, Lawmakers require that any price changes can't change the overall level of customer savings, but those savings will vary depending on what's purchased. DoD has put increasing pressure on commissary officials to reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars about 1.3 billion a year to operate the stores. FREE DOWNLOAD 2018 Military Times Benefits Guide , On the shelves Along with price changes, customers have seen expanded private-label, or store-brand, offerings. Among the first were bottled water and plastic bags they've expanded to include cheese, rice and dry beans, foam and plastic plates, shelf stable juices, water enhancers and powered soft drinks, paper towels and bath tissue. While customers are paying less for some products, the commissaries no longer carry some popular national brands. At checkout In late 2017, commissaries began to accept the Military Star card, which is a credit card program run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Commissaries continue to accept other forms of payment, including other major credit cards, but those card issuers charge the government transaction fees the Military Star card doesn't. Anyone who doesn't pay the Star Card balance in full each month will pay interest that money goes back to support the exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation programs. Want to bag 'em yourself? Commissary testing some lanes without baggers. WHAT'S NEW, More private-label products have either hit commissary shelves recently or will arrive soon, including baking goods, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, mayonnaise, broth, cooking sprays, canned beans, and other items. Officials plan to increase the inventory of such products gradually to about 3,000 to 4,000 items. Behind the scenes, Defense Department officials have been working on a plan to consolidate the commissaries and exchanges into a single "defense resale enterprise." It's a draft proposal the law will have to be changed, and it's unclear how lawmakers will react.
North Korean leader agrees to dismantle main nuclear site if US takes similar action
PYONGYANG, North Korea The leaders of North and South Korea announced a wide range of agreements Wednesday which they said were a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, but with a big condition for denuclearization. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated he would permanently dismantle his main nuclear complex only if the United States takes corresponding measures. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in their second day of meetings to an ambitious program meant to tackle soaring tensions last year that had many fearing war as the North tested a string of increasingly powerful weapons. Their agreements include more buffer zones to reduce tensions, and a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas. Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon. But while containing several tantalizing offers, their joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for such as a commitment by Kim to provide a list of North Korea's nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline for closing them down, or an agreement to allow international inspectors to assess progress or discover violations. The question is whether it will be enough for U.S. President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, Trump told reporters Wednesday "we're making tremendous progress" with North Korea and "we had very good news" out of the summit. Trump didn't indicate in his brief remarks whether the U.S. would be willing to take further steps to encourage North Korean action on denuclearization. However, he claimed credit for quelling the tensions that had escalated sharply during the first year of his presidency before his own summit with Kim in June. The news from the summit brought a quick and negative response from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tweeted that he was concerned the visit would undermine efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to impose "maximum pressure" on the North. This week's summit comes as Moon is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in efforts to get Kim to completely and unilaterally abandon his nuclear arsenal. "We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat," Kim said. The joint statement said the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to "eliminate all the danger of war.", North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a cease-fire, but neither leader mentioned it Wednesday as they read the joint statement. A look at what was achieved at the summit, and what wasn't, Border buffers, no-fly zone, Moon and Kim made what appear to be concrete moves to reduce tensions on their border. According to a statement signed by the countries' defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones. The two Koreas eventually aim to withdraw all guard posts, where combat troops are stationed. They also decided to launch their first-ever joint searches for soldiers killed during the Korean War next April at a DMZ area where one of the fiercest battles happened. Here's how you can tell Americans from others, experts say, and other mysteries DNA can solve. The Koreas would stop live-fire and field maneuver exercises in the areas 5 kilometers 3.1 miles from the military demarcation line and in waters close to the maritime boundary. The countries also would put covers on coastal-based artillery guns. They agreed to "disarm" their jointly controlled area at the border village of Panmunjom, the site of the past two Kim-Moon summits. It's also where North Korean soldiers sprayed bullets at a colleague fleeing to the South last November. According to Seoul documents, the Koreas would pull back weapons and guard posts in the area to let 35 "unarmed personnel" from each side guard the village and let tourists freely cross concrete slabs forming the demarcation line there. Denuclearization What would that mean?, According to a joint statement released by Seoul, North Korea agreed to permanently dismantle a launch pad and an engine-testing facility at its northwestern rocket-firing center in the presence of international experts. The North also said it could take further measures such as permanently dismantling its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex if the United States takes reciprocal measures. While symbolic, the dismantling of the missile engine test site and launch pad wouldn't represent a material step toward denuclearization of North Korea, which after a torrent of weapons tests last year declared its nuclear force as complete. The North has invested much effort to improve the mobility of its most powerful missiles, which are designed to be launched from vehicles. The level of access foreign experts will have at the North Korean sites is also unclear. The move wouldn't be entirely meaningless if Washington and Seoul could successfully argue that, in allowing outside experts, Kim accepted in principle that agreements should be verified. This could make it harder for Kim to reject inspections once the denuclearization process proceeds. The North unilaterally dismantled a nuclear testing ground earlier this year, but didn't invite experts to observe the event. Still, the discussions on the North's denuclearization continue to fail to answer the basic questions of what, when and how. The North for decades has been pushing a concept of denuclearization that bears no resemblance to the American definition, vowing to pursue nuclear development until the U.S. removes its troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. Some experts say that Washington is trying to shape the nuclear talks as a bilateral arms reduction negotiation between two nuclear states, instead of a process to surrender the North's nukes. "The only firm promises North Korea made was to permanently dismantle the missile engine test site and launch pad," said Cheong Seong-Chang, a North Korea expert at South Korea's Sejong Institute. He said the statement is unlikely to satisfy hawks within the Trump administration calling for the return of the pressure campaign against the North. Summer Olympics, The Korean leaders agreed to pursue a joint bid for the 2032 Summer Olympics. They also plan to send more combined teams to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and other major sports events. For many South Koreans, it would be mind-boggling that the Koreas are even talking about sharing the Olympics. North Korea boycotted the 1986 Asian Games and the '88 Summer Olympics, both held in Seoul, and relations dramatically worsened on the eve of the Seoul Olympics with the North's bombing of a South Korean passenger jet that killed all 115 aboard in December 1987. At the start of their meeting, Kim thanked Moon for brokering the June summit with Trump. "It's not too much to say that it's Moon's efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected," Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports and Moon's office.
Dont reactivate the old frigates internal US Navy memo recommends
WASHINGTON A move gaining traction in the upper echelons of the Navy to bring back mothballed Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates would cost billions, cut into modernization accounts for other ships and add little to the Navy's capabilities, according to documents obtained by Defense News. The Navy estimates that bringing back 10 of the Perry-class frigates would cost in excess of 4.32 billion over 10 years, and take away from money needed to modernize the Navy's existing cruisers and destroyers. In return, the Navy would get a relatively toothless ship only suitable for very low-end missions such as counter-drug operations. "With obsolete combat systems and aging hulls, these vessels would require significant upgrades to remain warfighting relevant for another decade," the document reads. "Any potential return on investment would be offset by high reactivation and life-cycle costs, a small ship inventory, limited service life, and substantial capability gaps. "Furthermore, absent any external source of funding, these costs would likely come at the expense of other readiness, modernization or shipbuilding programs.", Both the chief of naval operations and the secretary of the Navy have mentioned they are considering recommissioning the frigates as a way of boosting fleet numbers as they pursue a goal of 355 ships. But some experts have pushed back on the idea, saying that the money is better spent on more capable ships and investing in the future. A single-page internal memo, which was circulated in the Chief of Naval Operations office in October, estimated the Navy would have to spend at least 432 million per ship over the decade of service, a figure that well exceeds the cost of procuring one brand new littoral combat ship. A second October memo described to Defense News said that of the 10 frigates left for recommissioning, two are reserved for foreign sales, one isn't seaworthy, and the remaining seven would still cost more than 3 billion to bring back. The paper instead recommends putting the money toward destroyer and cruiser modernization, as well as littoral combat ship procurement and development of the next-generation guided-missile frigate now in development. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Navy Times Daily News Roundup, "Funding for frigate reactivation should not come at the expense of Cruiser and Destroyer modernization, Littoral Combat Ship procurement, and FFGX procurement," the memo reads. "If additional funding were made available, recommend funding the service life extension of Cruisers before funding FFG-7 reactivation as Cruisers would not require additional combat systems modernization and would provide much greater warfighting capability.", Labeling the ship the FFGX, the ship will be expected to keep up with the full carrier strike group and operate independently in high-end threat environments. , Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told reporters in September that he was considering bringing the frigates out of retirement and mentioned using them for counter-drug patrols off of South America. "One of the things we might look at is bringing the Perry-class to do a limited drug interdiction mode," Spencer said, according to USNI News. But that idea rubs some observers the wrong way, saying that reactivating the frigates would be throwing good money after bad. "The idea that we would spend several billion dollars over ten years on bringing corroded ships out of the boneyard to service a tertiary mission in an era of renewed great power competition is nonsense," said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer captain and consultant with The Ferrybridge Group. "How many Ticonderoga-class cruiser upgrades or destroyer modernizations will be deferred in pursuit of this unwise idea? The president said he wanted a 350 ship Navy he didn't say he wanted it tomorrow.", In October, Defense News reported that the remaining 22 so-called Tico cruisers will start leaving the fleet in 2020 at a rate of two per year. The cruisers, which boast 122 vertical-launch missile cells and two five-inch guns, are the largest surface combatants in the fleet. The influential head of a House sea power subcommittee is calling on the Navy to enter its oldest 11 cruisers into a service-life extension program rather than retire them at the end of their 35-year hull life. In response to the report, Rep. Rob Wittman, chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee, called on the Navy to modernize its oldest cruisers and keep them in the fleet. "Instead of discussing the decommissioning of cruisers, we need to spend more time discussing the maintenance, modernization and service-life extension of all twenty-two cruisers," Wittman said.
McCain warns Trump to watch his words after North Korea fire and fury
WASHINGTON Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain said Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump has to watch his words better after the commander in chief threatened North Korea in an escalating nuclear standoff. "It's a difficult challenge, and I hope the president, which he is not now doing, would be very careful about the language he uses," McCain, R-Ariz. said in a Facebook town hall broadcast from his office in Phoenix. "I'm not exactly sure the president recognizes that when he speaks, as the most powerful person in the world, his or her words reverberate all over the world," McCain said. McCain also cautioned Trump to consult with his advisers before shooting from the hip on Twitter. "I'm not saying the president should stop tweeting that's something he likes to do," McCain said. "But before he tweets, it would be nice for him to control it, to consult with some of his very experienced and talented national security team.", In a previous interview, McCain told KTAR News that Trump would be better off emulating President Teddy Roosevelt's "walk softly" and "big stick" ethos. "The great leaders I've seen don't threaten unless they're ready to act, and I'm not sure President Trump is ready to act," he said. Trump on Tuesday told reporters North Korea "had best not make any more threats to the United States or they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." It was apparently a response to reports Pyongyang has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead. On Wednesday, North Korea announced it was reviewing plans for a preemptive strike on Guam, including Andersen Air Force Base, and it ripped the U.S. for provocative military flights in the region. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for our Early Bird Brief, That in turn prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to warn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "take heed" and stop the nuclear threats that could lead to the destruction of his people. McCain was among the chorus of lawmakers, mostly Democratic, who criticized Trump's saber rattling as unhelpful in the face of diplomatic efforts to deescalate. The SASC's ranking member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-N.Y. said Trump made an unhelpful ad lib and that the "U.S. and international community must work together to strategically apply pressure on North Korea at every point necessary to neutralize this threat.", "When it comes to North Korea, the United States has many tools diplomatic, financial and others to work with, not just military options," he said. McCain hinted at the potential carnage if the U.S. went to war with North Korea. Pyongyang, he said, can launch strikes on South Korea from thousands of protected artillery positions over their shared border. He urged a multipronged effort to not only press China to use its influence to have Pyongyang back down but to deploy the American-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system in South Korea. The South Korean government called for increased deployment of THAAD launchers in July following North Korean missile tests, but the system is politically divisive there and an irritant to China. McCain urged Trump to listen to his team, lauding Mattis, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster by name. He did not mention White House adviser Steve Bannon save to reference reports Bannon is clashing with McMaster over the administration's foreign policy direction. "I would resolve this internecine strife between Bannon and McMaster," McCain said. "You can't run a train with two engineers. You can only have one.", Otherwise, McCain advised calling in Cold War-era diplomats like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz for advice. McCain could not resist knocking his old foil on national security issues, President Barack Obama, who left Trump with "eight years of failures" to clean up, he said. Otherwise, McCain was upbeat about his ongoing treatment for brain cancer, calling it a "tough struggle," adding "I have to beat it.", He said he would return to the Senate to take up the annual defense policy bill in September, when Congress returns from recess. He promised floor debate on "a couple hundred amendments."
Persian Gulf veterans still fighting for proper health care 25 years after war
Retired Marine Capt. David Winnett is grateful for his Tricare health program, which keeps him from having to go to the Veterans Affairs Department to treat his Gulf War-related illnesses. At the VA, says the moderator of the 10,003-member Facebook group Gulf War Illnesses, veterans often are sent to mental health providers when they show up with symptoms considered classic of Gulf War illness, such as gastrointestinal dysfunction, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, profound fatigue and cognitive issues. Winnett said more than 300 veterans responded to an informal survey he posted to the group asking whether they had been referred by VA to mental health professionals instead of having their physical health problems addressed and treated. "All over the country, it's the same thing being reported. These people walk into a VA hospital or clinic and either the physicians don't know about Gulf War illness or they pretend they don't know and the veteran ends up in the psych ward," said Winnett, who has fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome that began after his 1991 deployment. Advocates for Gulf War veterans were in Washington on Tuesday for the 25th anniversary of the Operation Desert Storm ground assault, pushing for continued research and improved treatment for veterans with Gulf War-related illnesses. Speaking before the House Veterans' Affairs oversight subcommittee, veterans and scientists who have studied Gulf War diseases say the VA is not doing enough to ensure its physicians are following recommended treatment guidelines for these veterans with chronic health conditions. And, the advocates add, even those guidelines, issued in 2014, are flawed, relying heavily on behavioral therapy to ease symptoms, as well as psychiatric medications. Fear no longer. Be the first to hear about breaking news, as it happens. You'll get alerts delivered directly to your inbox each time something noteworthy happens in the Military community. , By giving us your email, you are opting in to our Newsletter Sign up for the Early Bird Brief, "The health problems of Gulf War veterans are not vague and extremely variable, as is often suggested," Roberta White, chair of the department of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health, told subcommittee members. "I cannot think of any illness in which all patients share exactly the same symptoms. ... Gulf War illness is not different from any other disorder in this way.", Earlier this month, a scientific panel hired by VA to review research on Gulf War illnesses and make recommendations released a report saying the department should stop searching for causes of these illnesses and instead focus on monitoring and treating those who are sick. The report, the 10th by the Institute of Medicine on Gulf War illnesses, found that Gulf War veterans are at increased risk for developing post-traumatic stress, anxiety, Gulf War illness and chronic fatigue syndrome, but do not appear to have higher incidence of cancer, respiratory illnesses or other neurodegenerative conditions. The IOM panel, led by Deborah Cory-Slechta, an environmental medicine professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, said that without actual records of individual exposures, and the prospect of obtaining the data unlikely, VA should spend its resources on researching treatments and taking care of patients. "The committee wants to emphasize that it did not recommend that research on the health of Gulf War veterans be stopped," Cory-Slechta said. "Rather, the committee found that research that continues to seek a causal link between Gulf War illness and other health conditions found in Gulf War veterans and specific chemical exposures, such as anti-nerve agent pills, sarin or pesticides, is not likely to yield useful information.", According to the report, the only condition that can be proved to be caused by Gulf War deployment is post-traumatic stress disorder. The investigation also found "sufficient evidence of an association" for generalized anxiety disorder, depression, substance abuse, gastrointestinal symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War illness, the catch-all term used to describe unexplained symptoms from Gulf War exposures. The panel also found a "limited but suggestive" link between Gulf War deployment and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS fibromyalgia chronic pain and self-reported sexual dysfunction. But it found little or no evidence that cancer, skin conditions, birth defects, musculoskeletal system diseases, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses were related. Of the 700,000 troops who served in the Persian Gulf War, more than 33 percent are receiving medical treatment from the VA. That figure is up from 13 percent in 2000. According to Dr. Carolyn Clancy, assistant deputy undersecretary for health, safety and quality at the Veterans Health Administration, 145,000 Gulf War veterans have undergone a physical for enrollment in the VA's Gulf War registry. Clancy said VA is "taking every possible step to help these veterans" and continues to invest in research on their diseases. "I assure you VA is ... advancing clinical research and clinical care for Gulf War veterans. Since our last meeting, VA has conducted 60 studies on Gulf War illnesses. Research investment has risen form 5.6 million in 2012 to 14 million this year, and that's a conservative estimate," Clancy said. She said many of VA's studies are focused on novel treatments for veterans and that the department does not suggest that these illnesses are psychiatric in nature. "We have centers of excellence, War-Related Illness and Injury centers, which are charged with conducting cutting-edge research, clinical research and advanced care for Gulf War veterans," Clancy said. "We have learned how important it is to integrate care around our veterans and their needs.", But veterans and lawmakers say VA's efforts to date have not been enough. After listening to testimony, subcommittee chairman Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. a retired Marine major who served in both the Persian Gulf War and Iraq War, promised more action. "The lack of progress that has been made by the VA in the three years that has passed since these problems were first visited by this committee is frustrating and disconcerting. I think veterans should be treated better, and I will be exploring options for how to address these issues in the coming weeks," Coffman said. New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, the oversight subcommittee's ranking Democrat, said it is imperative to address Gulf War veterans' needs with an eye toward taking care of post-9/11 veterans in the future. "If we don't understand the causation behind Gulf War syndrome and exposure to toxins and other trauma, like post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, how it all comes together, we are not going to have an understanding of helping those who we have put in harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need to continue investigating causation while we move forward," Kuster said. Coffman said he is considering a legislative proposal by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. that would create a VA "center of excellence for toxic wounds," a one-stop shop for research, clinical policies, administration and leadership for environmental exposure medicine. "Instead of having this research fragmented by each problem whether it be Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome, burn pits let's bring it together to really try to combine resources and get down to the bottom of this, for the vets affected now and in the future," Coffman said. Patricia Kime covers military and veterans' health care and medicine for Military Times. She can be reached at pkime@militarytimes.com.
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