5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017 - We Are The Mighty
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5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.


Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.

In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.

So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?

1. Getting the nuclear house in order

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Photo: US Navy

Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.

Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.

America’s nuclear arsenal needs to be updated, quickly.

2. Streamlining the civilian workforce

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
(U.S. Navy photo by Mark Burrell)

Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.

California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.

There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.

3. Acquisition Reform

It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.

By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.

4. Cyber warfare

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Wikileaks tweeted this photo along with a plea for supporters to stop the cyber-attack

With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.

And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?

5. Old Equipment

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.

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Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.


Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades.  There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.

Also read: Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.

The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
The Marine Corps’ current AAV in Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons

Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.

The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.

Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.

Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.

“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”

Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.

“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.

An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.

Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.

BAE Systems ACV 1.1

The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.

In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.

BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.

“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.

The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.

Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.

Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in amphibious assault vehicles train with smoke grenades. | III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs photo by Pfc. Mark Stroud

Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.

The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.

 The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack

The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.

“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.

However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.

Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.

“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

Amphibious Assault Vehicle “Survivability Upgrade”

The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

MIGHTY CULTURE

100 year old sentinel returns to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”

Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.


Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.

While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)

One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.

Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.

It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.

After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.

After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.

Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The 6 best pieces of military gear, according to Amazon

We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.


After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?

1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars

Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.

2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars

The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
The Big Red One appreciates it.

Here’s one review:

“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”

3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars

The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
(U.S. Army Photo)

A reviewer writes:

“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.

I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”

4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars

Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.

The reviews:
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”

5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Multiversatile.

This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.

The reviews:

“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.

With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”

6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars

Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
(U.S. Army Photo)

From one review:

“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it. All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO increases anti-submarine training aimed at Russia

US and European officials have warned repeatedly in recent years that more sophisticated and more active Russian submarines pose a growing threat, and NATO countries are taking steps to counter that perceived challenge.

Adm. James Foggo, head of US Navy forces in Europe and Africa, has said that a “fourth battle of the Atlantic” — which comes after the naval warfare of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War — is already being fought, and it ranges far beyond the waters of the Atlantic.


“I’ve used the term in some of my writings that we are in a ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’ right now, and that’s not just the Atlantic,” Foggo said on the first edition of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” published at the end of August 2018.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, meets officers from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in Spain, Jan. 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class M. Jang)

“That’s all those bodies of water I talked about, the Arctic, the Baltic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar and the GIUK gap, and the North Atlantic,” he added, referring to waters between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK that were a focal point for submarine activity during the Cold War.

While some intelligence estimates from the Cold war indicate that current Russian sub activity is still well below peaks reached during that time, US and European officials have been expressing concern for the past several years.

“The activity in submarine warfare has increased significantly since the first time I came back to Europe and since the Cold War,” said Foggo, who previously commanded the Navy’s 6th Fleet. “The Russian Federation navy has continued to pump rubles into the undersea domain, and they have a very effective submarine force.”

That force’s readiness has also improved to the point where the Russian navy can keep some of them deployed most of the time.

US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told lawmakers in early 2018 that Moscow has “really stepped on the gas,” with its subs, “both in technology and in … the amount of time that they’re spending abroad.”

Russia’s newest class of submarines, Yasen-class subs, have drawn comparisons to the US Navy’s best subs, and Moscow matches that technical progress with the geographic advantage of being able to deploy from bases on the Barents, Baltic, and Black seas.

Some of Russia’s Kilo-class subs, which are newer, more advanced diesel-electric boats, are able to launch Kalibr cruise missiles from those areas and reach “any of the capitals of Europe,” Foggo said.

But, he added, the best way to track these boats is not just with other submarines.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

The Russian Yasen-class nuclear-attack sub Severodvinsk.

While Foggo was a planner at the Pentagon, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, then the Navy’s chief of operations, “would often say, ‘Hey, look, the best way to find another submarine is not necessarily with another submarine. That’s like a needle in a haystack,'” Foggo said.

A more effective approach draws on the submarine, surface, and air assets to put a full-court press on rival subs.

Anti-submarine warfare “is a combined-arms operation, and let no one forget that,” Foggo added, saying that it involved all the US Navy Europe and Africa’s assets as well as those of the 6th Fleet, which is responsible for the eastern half of the Atlantic from the Arctic to the Horn of Africa.

NATO navies, and many other navies around the world, have increased their attention to anti-submarine-warfare capabilities in recent years, adding improved technology and spending more time practicing. One sign of that focus has been the growing market for sonobuoys, which are used to hunt targets underwater.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Naval Aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn loads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon, April 10, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

In early 2017, US Navy ships deployed in the eastern Mediterranean engaged in the tricky game of tracking the Krasnodar, a Russian attack sub whose noise-reducing capability earned it the nickname “The Black Hole.”

Sailors in the USS George H.W. Bush carrier strike group were tasked with following the elusive Krasnodar, despite having little formal training in anti-submarine operations.

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush, told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

Cmdr. Edward Fossati, commander of the Bush strike group’s sub-hunting helicopters, told The Journal that improved tracking abilities had helped keep things even with Russian subs’ improved ability to avoid detection.

But the Navy has had to keep pace in what Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has called “a constant foot race.”

Navy surface forces let their focus on ASW “wane considerably” in the years after the Cold War, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in an early 2018 interview.

“Up until a few years ago, their ASW systems were not modernized to deal with new Russian and Chinese subs,” said Clark, a former submariner, but the Navy has added new, improved gear, like processors and towed arrays, that have increased their capabilities.

“Surface ships are able to get back into the ASW business,” Clark said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 rules for milspouses to stay savvy on social media

Have you seen the hilarious memes surrounding military spouses and social media? It’s a wild frontier, y’all. Military spouses are not bound by the same standards as their service members, yet there are definitely some guidelines that should steer any digital footprint — and we’re not just talking OPSEC. Here are 7 rules to keep milspouses savvy on social:


5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Just because you aren’t employed…

Relaxing standards when you’re not working feels good. But for a community who finds themselves walking in and out of careers, we’re suggesting not going full-blown IDGAF online. The digital dirt you’re kicking up doesn’t settle in the virtual world. Instead, every sassy comment or a drunken rant you go on is all there for your future employer to find. If what you’re about to type would likely get you fired if you were employed, opt for yelling into a pillow instead.

Quit pulling faux or metaphorical rank on each other

In case you haven’t heard, your service member’s rank does not carry over to you. Nothing is more annoying or quite frankly detrimental to the spouse community than when the perfume you’re wearing stinks of superiority. Sharing help, tips, insight and posting questions online should be met with equality, not discrimination or judgment. So be nice.

Oversharing is emotional vomit

It’s amazing what the digital world has done for military friendships and connectivity, but it’s not (always) the right space to show everyone your private stash of special. Spouses need to use online pages for their intended purpose, and that purpose only. Don’t divulge your marital issues on a “for sale or free” page. Instead, ask for local run chapter pages of organizations like InDependent, a dedicated space for overall spouse wellness and connection.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Dirty laundry goes in the washer, not on the internet

What’s the easiest way to spot a spouse going through a life change or marital issue? They go from cardigan selfies to bikini shots real quick. We’re hoping for all of humanity that decorum isn’t dead and everyone ready to step it up in a rough patch would have first put that amount of energy into saving their marriages.

Stop telling hackers all of your information

How gullible do you have to be to not realize that the “list your last 5 hometowns in order, or cars or pets names” isn’t a total scam? Stop sharing it. We’re lucky enough to have six street names and five possible cities to use for a password that might actually make it difficult to guess. Why spoil it by just divulging all of that with the world?

Make social media work in your favor

Scrolling isn’t all bad, in fact, it could lead to your next career. Building up a network of potential leads, resources and communities can work in your favor if you play your cards right. If you’ve followed suggestion number one, your social profile becomes a bit resume-like in the best way. Researching the major players in your next area before you move and “showing up” as who you want the world to see you as might just catch the eye of your next boss.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Keep pages separate

What’s more annoying than your online friend going from zero to MLM salesman of the year? Nothing, nothing is more annoying. Take it from someone who enjoyed one or six careers in their life and keep social media pages consistent or make a new one. You can’t go from daily donut love to a fitness “expert” in the blink of an eye. Authenticity takes time, so take the time to consider if this next stage is here to stay, or would be better suited as a group or subpage.


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A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.


The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.

Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.

“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
George Ybarra during his time as a US Marine. Photo from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.

Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.

An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.

The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Attorney Luis Parra. Image from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.

Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.

His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Photo courtesy of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”

Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”

A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”

When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Image from Department of Homeland Security.

“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.

A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.

Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.

“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.

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‘American Sniper’ Had A Monster Weekend

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017


Clint Eastwood’s Oscar darling “American Sniper” opened wide this weekend with a record-smashing $90.2 million haul.

“American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. The film has been exceeding expectations since it opened in limited release in just 4 theaters on Christmas Day, taking in an impressive $850,000 with a per-theater-average of $152,500, which ranks the 11th best p.t.a of all time.

On Thursday, the film nabbed six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for star Bradley Cooper, so the timing of its wide-release this weekend could not have been better.

“American Sniper” is now the highest grossing January debut of all time, more than doubling last January’s “Ride Along,” which took in just $41.5 million. More notably, the film had the second highest debut ever for an R-rated film, a record held by “The Matrix Reloaded” that took the spot all the way back in 2003 with $91.7 million. When final numbers are released tomorrow morning, “Sniper” might actually overtake it.

It is also the biggest debut for Clint Eastwood, a record previously set by 2008’s “Gran Torino” at just $29.5 million. “American Sniper” bested that on Friday alone with $30.5 million. Not only that — the film now holds the title for the biggest debut weekend for a Best Picture Oscar nominee ever.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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How and why the Stryker would be the ultimate pillbox at Verdun

The Battle of Verdun lasted for nearly ten months in 1916 and according to some estimates, resulted in almost 950,000 casualties. In essence, it was perhaps the epitome of the trench warfare that dominated World War I.


Indeed, trench warfare really didn’t end until the emergence of the early tanks at the Battle of the Somme. Could some of America’s most modern armored fighting vehicles do better? Specifically, the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
M1126 Stryker Infantry Combat Vehicle. (U.S. Army photo)

At first glance, the Strykers seem very capable of punching through the trenches. With add-on armor, the Stryker can resist RPGs. They have a top speed of just over 62 miles per hour, according to army-recognition.com. The fire from a MG 08 would just bounce off a Stryker that didn’t have the add-on armor. But that misses one problem: Sheer numbers on the German side.

The Germans committed over a million troops to the battle. The Stryker Brigade would have roughly 4,500 troops and 300 vehicles, most of which are M1126 Infantry Combat Vehicles. The vehicles couldn’t roam in the enemy rear — resupply would be very difficult at best. But those vehicles have technology that would enable them to decisively rout the German offensives.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
A look at the Kongsberg M151 Protector Remote Weapon Station. (U.S. Army photo)

The key to what the Stryker would use, would not be in mobility, but in the M151 Protector Remote Weapons Station. The Strykers primarily use the M2 heavy machine gun and Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. These outclass the MG 08 by a significant margin. Furthermore, they can be fired from within the Stryker, which negates one of Germany’s most powerful weapons in 1916: poison gas.

This is the second advantage the Stryker would have. The NBC protection capabilities in the Strykers would enable the defense to hold despite German chemical weapons. In essence, rather than facing incapacitated – or dead – defenders, the German troops would be going across “no man’s land” into mission-capable defenders.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
The Stryker’s remote weapon system and NBC protection would make it a formidable presence on a World War I battlefield. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sandra M. Palumbo) (Released)

Worse for them, the M2 heavy machine gun and the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher would tear massed infantry attacks apart. The optics of the Protector remote weapons stations would allow the Americans to pick out the guys with flamethrowers first. In essence, the Strykers would be able to bleed the Germans dry.

It gets worse for the Germans when the inevitable counter-attack comes. The same optics what would let a Stryker gunner pick out a machine gun position and take it out. Here, the M1128 Mobile Gun Systems and M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicles would also come into play, destroying bunkers. The M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrier Vehicles would be able to lay down a lot of smoke and high-explosive warheads on targets.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
The 105mm main gun would be a formidable bunker buster. (U.S. Army photo)

In essence, the Stryker would drastically alter Verdun, not by its mobility, but by virtue of being a poison gas-proof pillbox.

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The Army bought this tiltrotor aircraft over 30 years before the Osprey flew

When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.


But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.

Video: YouTube/AIRBOYD

The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.

The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.

Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
The Doak VZ-4 hovers during flight testing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.

Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

These traits have earned the Ospreys spots in special operations units and Marine air-ground task forces around the world. And for the U.S. military, the road to tiltrotor aircraft all started with a single plane purchased in 1956.

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This sex cult used salad bars as a bioterrorism weapon against American voters

In 1981, a spiritual leader named “Rajneesh,” aka “Osho,” aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian mystic and guru who advocated open attitudes toward sexuality, rejected Mahatma Ghandi and Indian socialism founded an “intentional community,” aka commune, aka “cult” in rural Oregon. They originally wanted to found an agricultural cooperative, but it soon became apparent to residents of what is today Antelope, Oregon, the closest town to the cultists they were up to so much more than that.


5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
You must be this tall for brainwashing

They set up a six million dollar, 64,000-acre ranch near Antelope, complete with 93 Rolls-Royce automobiles and private jets, all with money donated by his followers. His disciples dressed in red, worked all day, did drugs at night, and had sex with and in front of their leader. Rajneesh claimed the sex he taught them could cure them of their phobias and give them spiritual enlightenment.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
Ummm… and now could one of our less hairy members use some healing?

The followers, called “Rajneeshees” immediately entered conflict with the locals of Antelope over the use of the massive tract of land, but with only 50 people in the tiny town, compared to the Rajneeshees 7,000, they didn’t stand much of a chance. The townspeople tried to disincorporate themselves, but the measure was voted down, overwhelmed by Rajneesh’s registered voter corps. The cultists were very aggressive, initiating lawsuits, voting to change name the town to “Rajneesh,” and even allegedly attempting to murder state politicians.

The cult began flying people into the area via their series of private jets. The cult’s de facto leader, a woman named Ma Anand Sheela (aka Sheela Silverman) exacerbated the growing conflict with her crude and inflammatory rhetoric. She was dismissive of the townspeople’s complaints. Locals began to talk openly about hunting Rajneeshees in “turkey shoots.” Things were coming to a boiling point.

5_America's-most-dangerous-cult Air conditioning is for winners.

Antelope wasn’t the only town targeted by the Rajneeshees. In an attempt to pack the Wasco County government with Rajneesh’s followers, the cult targeted the voting population of The Dalles, Oregon.

In order to incapacitate The Dalles voting population so only cult members would be healthy enough to make it to the polls on voting day, the cultists spread Salmonella enterica Typhimurium on salad bars and in salad dressings throughout the city. 751 people picked up salmonellosis, 45 of those were hospitalized. No one died, but the locals were immediately suspicious of the rash of food poisonings. There were too many for it to be coincidental. Local leaders and citizen suspected the Rajneeshees. The evidence was purely circumstantial, however.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017
If you’re eating at Taco Time or Burgerville, food poisoning is likely to happen eventually.

Rajneesh, who was in a self-imposed isolation the entire time, finally came out and spoke up as a governmental inter-agency task force was being assembled to take on the cult. He called a press conference to blame everything on Sheela, who had conveniently just fled the country.It was almost an entire year later, but once the task force was formed, search warrants were issued and the Rajneeshee ranch was raided. Law enforcement found copies of The Anarchists’ Cookbook as well as samples of the salmonella strain used in the attack.

Rajneesh blamed the running of the commune on Sheela and admitted his complicity by remaining in isolation. He was fined and given a suspended sentence before being deported.

12_America's-most-dangerous-cult She seems okay with it.

Ma Anand Sheela and another woman were extradited to the U.S. from West Germany, while Rajneesh himself  couldn’t find a country who would take him until he ultimately ending up back in India where he started. Sheela served 29 months of a twenty year sentence. Rajneesh died in 1990.

It was the only instance of bioterrorism on American soil until the 2001 Anthrax mailing attacks. The camp is now a Christian youth camp.

 

All cult photos © 2003 Samvado Gunnar Kossatz, used by permission

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The heroic pilot of the Southwest crash got her skills in the Navy

On Tuesday, April 17, U.S. Navy veteran Tammie Jo Shults landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after her aircraft ripped apart mid-air. One passenger was killed and seven more were injured, but it could have been much worse.

A recording of her call to air traffic controllers reveals her calm response, perhaps due to her military experience.


After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander before separating. After her service, she became a Southwest pilot, joining the 6.2 percent of female commercial pilots in the United States.

On April 17, one of her jet engines blew, shattering a window and nearly sucking a woman out of the plane.

“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults told Air Traffic Control. “It’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing. They said there’s a hole, and — uh — someone went out.”

Cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but BBC reported that, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board, officials found evidence of metal fatigue where a fan blade had broken off

As of this writing, Shults has yet to make a formal statement, but passengers have taken to social media and mainstream news to hail her as the hero she is:

“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew, ” wrote Diana McBride Self.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US residents reportedly detained in Chinese prison camp

Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.

“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.

It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.


China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.

Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.

China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.

Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.

“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.

Residents of other countries, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Australia, have also been swept up in the crackdown.

Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.

Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.

The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.