Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined with 1,000 of some of the world’s smartest people in warning of the potential rise of killer robots being used on the battlefield.
“If any major military power pushes ahead with [artificial intelligence] weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable,” reads an open letter from more than 1,000 AI and robotics researchers. “And the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”
The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.
The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”
Artificial intelligence on the battlefield poses many difficult questions, according to the open letter. Besides the possibility of SkyNet, some of the concerns posed by the letter are:
A military arms race akin to nuclear weapons in which nations build smarter and more powerful robots
Killer robots falling into the hands of terrorists
Dictators using such robots for genocide and other violent campaigns
For Marine Corporal Alex Monaghan, who retired from the Corps in 2009 after four years as a rifleman during which he deployed twice (once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan), the phrase “boots on the ground” has taken on a far different meaning than those words typically suggest.
That’s because Alex is the first graduate of a brand-new Semper Fi Fund program: Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members learn valuable skills that they could one day leverage to start a business.
In Alex’s case, that skill is making high-quality cowboy boots.
It all began when Alex was considering going on “one of these horse stints,” as he describes it, as part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. While filling out the paperwork, there was a question at the bottom asking, “Are you interested in learning any of these skills?” Among the skills listed were knife-making, silver-engraving, roping … and making cowboy boots.
“It was weird that it was on there,” Alex recalls. “I always wanted to design my own boots. It’s a two-week program in St. Jo, Texas. The days are long—12 hours a day, six days a week—and there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You get a pair of customized boots when you’re done.”
The time may have been short, but Alex was learning from the best: The boot-making program is run by Carlton T. Chappell, a third-generation award-winning bootmaker who started in leathercraft in 1964 and has been recognized as one of the very best bootmakers in the world.
“It’s pretty neat,” Alex says. “You can’t learn everything in two weeks—Carl is in his 70s or 80s now, and he’s still learning new techniques every day–but it’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn, a new skill to master.”
While making a quality pair of cowboy boots is intricate and artistic work, Alex felt he had something of a head start over his half-dozen or so classmates.
“I did tattoo work for a couple of years,” he explains. “As far as working with machines and stuff, you have this huge thing on the table—you still have to draw out your sketch pattern and sew it up. I felt as if I had some advantage, because I’d been doing something similar to it.”
After finishing the two-week seminar, Alex went on to serve a month-long apprenticeship in Vernon, Texas, with award-winning bootmaker Dew Westover. Dew spent 20 years as a working cowboy, attended Carl’s seminar in 2002 and opened his own boot shop in 2004.
Alex made two pair of boots during his apprenticeship, and now he’s studying business at Texas AM as part of an entrepreneurship for veterans program.
Looking back over the years since he’s left active duty, Alex has seen a number of ups and downs in his own life, but he credits the Semper Fi Fund with helping him get out and get active—and he encourages his fellow veterans to do the same.
“If there are vets who are thinking about these sorts of programs, and they’re itchy or worried about it, I say just give it a try.”
“A lot of vets create a bubble and don’t go out in public,” Alex continues. “I think it’s a great experience—you have buddies to hang out with, you’re pushing yourself to do things that your anxiety or PTSD is preventing you from doing. I do these things, it pushes me to get out and go on the road and deal with people.”
“I would encourage more vets to get out there and find something they enjoy. Whether it’s bike riding or horseback riding or whatever—I’m sure the Semper Fi Fund has something for them.”
Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember whose who serve.
We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.
North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM for the second time July 28, demonstrating previously-unseen offensive capabilities. The missile flew for around 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of about 2,300 miles and covering a distance of roughly 600 miles.
Expert observers assessed that were the missile fired along a standard trajectory, it would have a range between 6,500 miles and 6,800 miles, putting most of the continental US within striking distance.
The Pentagon has not released information on the range of the missile, but two intelligence officials have confirmed that Pyongyang likely has the ability to launch an attack against cities across the US, escalating the threat, Reuters reports.
The missile test on July 28 performed better than the Hwasong-14 tested earlier last month. Experts and defense officials estimated that the first missile could hit targets at ranges somewhere between 4,600 miles and 5,900 miles, putting Alaska, and possibly Hawaii and parts of the West Coast, in range.
The improved performance might be linked to additional motors.
North Korean state media reported the test “confirmed the performing features of motors whose number has increased to guarantee the maximum range in the active-flight stage as well as the accuracy and reliability of the improved guidance and stability system.”
The missile may have featured second-stage yaw maneuvering motors, according to Ankit Panda, senior editor for The Diplomat. He added the North may have also increased the burn time for its engines.
After two successful ICBM tests, doubts remain about North Korea’s capabilities.
Russia, for instance, has yet to acknowledge North Korea even has an ICBM. After the July 4 test, Moscow claimed the North tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and they said the same after the July 28 test. It is unclear if Russia is being intentionally defiant or whether their outdated radar systems simply failed to detect the second stage of the ICBM.
There are also questions about whether or not North Korea has developed a reliable re-entry vehicle, a key step in the process of fielding ready-for-combat ICBMs and establishing a viable nuclear deterrent. Some also suspect that North Korea has not yet designed a suitable nuclear warhead for its missiles.
Several leading experts, however, assess the North has either already achieved these goals or will do so soon. The Pentagon expects North Korea to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than initially expected.
ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.
The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.
Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.
North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.
While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.
A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.
Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.
While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”
On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”
To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.
While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.
A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.
“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.
“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)
“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”
Chuck Aaron is a 63-year-old stunt helicopter pilot whose major trick is the ability to upend his bird.
According to a profile of the man in Popular Mechanics, a helicopter’s rotator blades would bend toward its skids when flying upside down. The blades would cut off the tail and the vehicle would return to Earth. Very quickly. And uncontrollably.
So how does Aaron do it?
He had assembled his own U.S. Army attack helicopter from spare parts when Red Bull came calling. They wanted to know if it were possible to configure a helo to fly upside down. His gut feeling was an instinct to stay alive and he gave them a firm no. But as he thought about it, he began to come up with modifications that just might work for that purpose.
It helps that Red Bull covered the tab. Aaron doesn’t discuss the exact modifications he made, but you can see the results speak for themselves.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a statement condemning alleged sharing of nude photos by US military personnel, saying such behavior is “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”
“The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values we uphold at the Department of Defense,” Mattis said, according to a statement obtained by Andrew deGrandpre at Military Times.
Mattis added that the Pentagon was “taking all appropriate action” to investigate any wrongful behavior carried out by active-duty service members.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow service members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion,” Mattis said. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller similarly condemned such behavior on Tuesday, saying in a video, “When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don’t think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters.”
The Pentagon has come under fire from the media and congressional leaders in recent days, especially after Business Insider reported that the scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who were accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group was found to be much larger than previously thought.
The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.
The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.
Second Lt. Ben Lacount knows that it’s never a good thing to run out of rounds during a firefight. And it’s certainly not a good thing to be surprised that you have.
That’s why he invented the “Lacounter” with help from Navy engineers and a 3D printer that allowed him to cut prototyping time down to a fraction. The device allows shooters to see how many rounds they’ve expended while pulling the trigger so that they’re not in a bind when they do.
The Lacounter even works with belt fed weapons like the M249 and M2 .50cal.
Lacount’s prototype takes advantage of a process known as “additive manufacturing,” and it’s one that could change the face of military logistics forever.
U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Ben Lacount presents his winning entry from the Marine Corps Innovation Challenge during a showcase at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Md., Aug. 15, 2017. Lacount created an expended rounds counter for the M16 rifle in the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Laboratory, Carderock™s additive manufacturing collaborative space. (U.S. Navy photo by Dustin Q. Diaz/Released)
Captain Kyle McCarley helped come up with a new way to carry the “Bangalore torpedo,” an explosive device used to blow up obstacles like barbed wire. While they are very useful, they are bulky, and take up space. But McCarley used a 3D printer to make a quiver-like pack with elastic straps for the devices that can attack to a normal assault pack.
Then there was Staff Sgt. Daniel Diep, an artilleryman. After noticing that the cable for the Chief of Section Display got damaged from debris that got stuck in the cable – something that took a week and $3,000 to fix – he designed a 3D-printed cable head that cost $10 to make.
“The neat thing about this cable cap is the cable heads themselves can be additively manufactured, and Marines like myself can take all the old cables, cut them down, and we can put new heads on them after 3-D printing,” Diep said.
But the neatest trick of all is getting the 3D printers closer to the grunts. Captain Tony Molnar and Master Sgt. Gage Conduto have worked that out – not only by bringing the printers to units at FOBs, but also a processing center to recycle plastic, like water bottles often delivered to troops on deployment. This will be a huge boon for explosive ordnance techs like Conduto.
“I can’t walk down to the Marine Corps machinist with a stinger missile in my hand and say, ‘I need a set of tools made, can you get these back to me next week?'” he said.
But the tech could go even further, than just helping come up with new tools. In fact, it could be a huge game-changer for any forward-deployed unit.
“This container will benefit the Marine expeditionary units and the Marine Corps and DOD because it can do two things: One, it enhances the expeditionary readiness of forward-deployed units by being able to print parts locally on site using recycled materials, and second, it helps those combat units forward by providing stuff that they can’t do, as well as printing stuff for the local populous during humanitarian disaster relief that we couldn’t normally do and that we’d have to pay someone to do,” Molnar told the Navy News Service.
Marine grunts getting inventive — that’s a very frightening thought … for America’s enemies.
The first permanent deployment of F-35B Lightning II fighters outside the U.S. took place last week, and the location is probably no surprise.
According to a Marine Corps release, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, or VMFA-121, has now become permanently based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
A F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, lands at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)
According to F35.com, VMFA-121 consists of 16 F-35B fighters. In its previous iteration as VMFA(AW)-121, the squadron had 12 F/A-18D Hornet fighters, a number that was reduced to 10 as planes wore out, according to a BreakingDefense.com report from last April.
The deployment comes as tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have increased over the South China Sea, a potentially volatile maritime flashpoint. China issued a warning after White House press secretary Shawn Spicer said, “So it’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)
Spicer had echoed comments made by Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of State, during his Senate confirmation hearings. According to a FoxNews.com report, Tillerson said earlier this month, “You’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.”
In recent months, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out operations in the South China Sea. In December, China used a H-6 Badger to assert its claims as marked by the “nine-dash line.” There have also been close encounters between Chinese J-11 fighters and U.S. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes in recent years, according to a report by the Daily Caller.
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President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.
The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.
The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.
Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”
“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.
Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.
Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.
“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.
The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.
The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.
The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.
Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.
Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”
Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.
“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”
Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.
More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.
McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”
Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.
Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.
In the years immediately following World War II, based on the idea that the war was over and the world was a more peaceful place, Capitol Hill and the White House were putting pressure on the Pentagon by reducing the defense budget. President Truman believed the military could cut costs by taking redundant efforts across all the branches and combining them into unified commands. The most radical of these ideas was taking the Department of War and the Department of the Navy and placing them under a new command known as the Department of National Defense.
The Army had actually teed up the idea of the Department of National Defense, yielding to the fact that they were about to lose the Army Air Corps, which was morphing into the U.S. Air Force, a branch of its own. The Navy fought the notion of the Air Force having service branch status, pointing to the fact that they’d just won a world war and everything was just fine as it was. The Navy had no desire to be anything other than completely independent from the Army, and the idea of a new branch with cognizance over air power made the admirals paranoid that they’d lose control of their sea-based air power in time.
But military technology was changing fast, particularly that designed to conduct nuclear warfare, and Air Force leaders actively socialized an agenda that conventional assets — like aircraft carriers and other surface combatants — were increasingly irrelevant on the battlefields of the future.
For its part, the Navy’s leadership believed that wars could not be won by strategic bombing alone, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. The Navy also held a moral objection to relying upon the widespread use of nuclear weapons to destroy the major population centers of an enemy homeland. The Navy’s signature platform for sea service relevance in wars to come was the USS United States (CVA 58), a new generation of aircraft carrier that could launch airplanes that weighed as much as 100,000 pounds, the kind that would be able to carry the nuclear payloads of the day.
The Navy had an ally in the form of the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who had previously been Secretary of the Navy. He authorized production of the United States class of carriers with a run of five ships. But when Truman got elected in 1948 he immediately replaced Forrestal with Louis Johnson, who had previously been an assistant secretary of War and, more importantly, perhaps, had been a major fundraiser for the Truman campaign.
Johnson did little to calm the ever-growing inter-service rivalries when he said this:
There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.
Johnson canceled the construction of the United States class of carriers without any warning to the Navy or Congress. The blow to the morale of the Navy was substantial. The Secretary of the Navy, John Sullivan, and several high-ranking admirals resigned in protest. A few days later, Johnson shocked another branch of the military by announcing that Marine Corps aviation assets would be transferred to the brand-new U.S. Air Force. (The Marines flexed their own congressional muscles, and the measure was quietly reversed.)
Johnson continued to provoke the Navy, replacing Sullivan as SecNav with former USO director and fellow Truman fundraiser Francis P. Matthews, who admitted the closest thing he had to maritime experience was “rowing a boat on a lake.”
One Navy leader took to the press. Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine, the last of which was titled “Don’t Let Them Scuttle the Navy!” That article angered Johnson to the point he called for a court-martial for Gallery on the grounds of gross insubordination. The court-martial never happened, but Gallery was passed over for another star and retired.
Meanwhile, Congress decided they had had enough of the inter-service bickering. The House Armed Services Committee held hearings in an attempt to get to the bottom of the tension, but the lawmakers’ attempt to settle the feud threatened to make it worse. During the hearings, the Navy admirals gathered accused Secretary of Defense Johnson of favoring the Air Force’s procurement of the B-36 bomber over the new aircraft carriers because he had previously been on the board of directors of Convair, the manufacturer of the B-36.
The previously anonymous author of the original paper accusing Johnson of a conflict of interest was called to testify. That author, Cedric Worth, a retired commander and a staffer to an undersecretary of the Navy, provided uncompelling testimony against Johson and was ultimately fired from his position, which further embarrassed the Navy.
A second set of hearings focused on the cancellation of the United States class of aircraft carriers. The Army and Air Force commanders testified that naval aviation should be used to reinforce the Air Force, but could not be used for sustained actions against land targets.
The new Secretary of the Navy, Francis Matthews, announced that no Navy man would be censored or penalized for the testimony he offered at the hearing. The naval officers called to testify were expected to support Secretary Matthews, but instead, they all testified that the Air Force reliance on the B-36 was inadequate and that the entire strategy of atomic bombing was misguided. The Navy leaders who came before the committee were basically a World War II all-star team: King, Halsey, Nimitz, and Spruance, along with a captain named Arleigh Burke, later the father of undersea ballistic missiles and other Navy-based nuclear deterrent capabilities.
Burke testified that the Navy had done successful tests that showed their F2H Banshee bomber could launch off of an aircraft carrier, reach 40,000 feet and destroy a bomber. He also assumed the Soviet Union had such an airplane, and therefore U.S. Air Force bombers like the B-36 would need Navy fighter escort since they didn’t have an airplane that could perform like that.
The congressional committee disapproved of Johnson’s “summary manner” of terminating the United States and his failure to consult congressional committees before acting. The committee stated that “national defense is not strictly an executive department undertaking; it involves not only the Congress but the American people as a whole speaking through their Congress. The committee can in no way condone this manner of deciding public questions.”
The committee expressed solid support for Truman’s plan for budget reduction by effective unification, but stated that “there is such a thing as seeking too much unification too fast” and observed that “there has been a navy reluctance in the inter-service marriage, an over-ardent army, a somewhat exuberant air force . . . It may well be stated that the committee finds no unification Puritans in the Pentagon.”
The Navy icons from World War II were bulletproof with respect to the ire of Secretary of the Navy Matthews, but some of the lower ranking admirals paid for their candid testimony with their careers. Matthews attempted to block the promotion of Burke, but his reputation as a fast-track innovator had made it all the way to the White House, and Truman himself stepped in and put him back on the list.
In spite of the keen inter-service rivalry at the time, the arguments were ultimately settled by history. The Soviet threat underwrote the funding of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal along with the requisite platforms to deliver it. At the same time, the Korean War demonstrated that the threat to the United States was not singular, as some Air Force leaders had asserted, and that carrier air power was still an important part of America’s defense capability. The Navy moved on to the Forrestal class, the first line of supercarriers, and since that time the first question every Secretary of Defense has asked during a time of crisis is, “Where are the aircraft carriers?”