Elite soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces’ Shayetet 13 special operations unit joined forces with U.S. Navy SEALS in late March for a joint exercise between the two allies.
According to an IDF statement, the exercise was designed to improve upon the operational capabilities of the special forces of the IDF and of the militaries of Israel’s allies, such as the United States. The drill also included knowledge sharing between fleets, strengthening of common language, and operational cooperation in the field.
On the Israeli side, a Saar 5 missile ship (Eilat), Naval Special Warfare vessels, and other navy crafts took part in the training event. Troops practiced parachuting over the sea and carrying out a nighttime raid on a ship and rescuing hostages in enclosed areas.
Following the drill, the head of operations of the Israeli Navy, Rear Adm. Ido Ben Moshe, said that “the cooperation between the two fleets is reflected in annual drills, reciprocal visits and operational mutuality. During the joint exercises, professional relations are created that contribute to both sides on the strategic level.”
In 2016, IDF Special Forces and U.S. Marines held a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert in part aimed at coordinating techniques for combating terrorist activities. Dubbed ‘Noble Shirley,’ the drill involved special units from the Israeli Air Force and Navy, and ground forces.
During the drill, the troops practiced simulating helicopter landings behind enemy lines, urban warfare both above and below ground, as well as close-range combat and military takeover techniques. The troops also held exercises concentrating on medical response to injured troops in hostile territory as well as the coordination of U.S. and Israeli medical networks.
Christmas movies can be broken down into their own sub-genres. You have classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, rom-coms like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, and modern family favorites like Elf and Home Alone. But, don’t forget the all-important action Christmas movie sub-genre. Undoubtedly, the king of this category is the legendary 1988 film Die Hard. Here are 5 reasons why and why it is, in fact, a true Christmas movie.
1. Christmas music
You can’t have a Christmas movie without Christmas music, and Die Hard checks this block. The film features the Christmas classics of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” by Vaughn Moore and “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard & Dick Smith. Additionally, while Argyle the limo driver is waiting, he’s listening to “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. If that’s not enough breadth of musical accompaniment, I don’t know what is.
2. It’s literally Christmas
Let’s break this one down. Holly’s company is having its annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve when Hans Gruber and his cronies take them hostage. Gruber even says, “It’s Christmas, Theo. The time for miracles.” When McClane gets his hands on an HK94 (they were converted to look like MP5s; note the button magazine release when Marco reloads on the table above McClane), he writes “I have a machine gun now, Ho Ho Ho” on the body of the terrorist that he took it from. The book that the film is based on, Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, also takes place on Christmas Eve. Oh, and Steven de Souza, the film’s writer, has confirmed that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Can’t argue with writer’s intent.
3. Reconciliation and making friends
It’s often said that Christmastime is a time for forgiveness and strengthening bonds. It’s also a time to make new friends, and John McClane does both of these things in his battle through Nakatomi Tower. The whole point of the NYPD cop being in Los Angeles was to reconcile with his wife, Holly (another Christmas reference). The man shows up with a giant teddy bear and everything. McClane then builds trust and understanding with LAPD Sergeant Al Powell. Once they establish this relationship, Powell spends the rest of the movie trying to help his new friend and eventually takes down the last terrorist before he can kill McClane. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Good will to all men, unless they’re threatening your buddy in a gunfight.
4. More Christmas
If the movie itself doesn’t convince you that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and the best action Christmas movie, how about the fact that it spawned more Christmas-themed media. The film’s 1990 sequel, Die Hard 2, also takes place on Christmas Eve. Die Hard 2 also adds snow into the mix for those who complained about the lack of it in the first one (despite the Southern California setting). But, there’s more. Looking for a Christmas bedtime story to read your kids and teach them about American hero John McClane? Why not read them A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner. The illustrated kid’s book is sure to be a re-read request as much as the film is rewatched.
Speaking of rewatching, is a movie really a Christmas movie if you can’t rewatch it every year? Well, Die Hard is the gift that just keeps on giving. We’ve all quoted lines along with McClane like, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs,” and, “Welcome to the party, pal.” Of course, you don’t even need to have seen the film (but if you haven’t, what are you even doing?) to know, “Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherf**cker.” It doesn’t even have to be Christmas for you to watch it and quote along. Remember what movie Ross, Joey, and Chandler from Friends always end up renting from the video store (when those were a thing)? That’s right. It’s Die Hard. It’s never a bad time to watch it, but Christmastime is what the movie was made for.
They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.
Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.
Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.
“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.
“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.
“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.
Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.
“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.
‘Something has to give’
The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.
“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.
A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.
Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.
Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.
Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”
The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.
One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.
Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.
“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.
The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.
The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”
Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.
“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.
Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.
Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.
Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.
“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.
After some consultation between senior leaders and their ink’d subordinates, the Marine Corps has just hit the company street and deckplates with a new tattoo policy.
“The Commandant and I have been talking with Marines throughout the Corps during our visits and we’ve taken their questions and comments to heart because it continues to be important to Marines,” said Sgt. Major Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. “The Commandant said it best in the Marine Corps Bulletin in that we’ve attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession. I think we have accomplished just that with MCBUL 1020. We took the time we felt this policy deserved, we wanted to make sure we got it right.”
Here’s a graphic that highlights the details of the new reg:
Note that officers are limited to no more than four tats visible in the PT uniform. (And just when Justin Bieber was thinking of heading to OCS.) Also, the width of a single tattoo standard is defined by the width of an individual’s hand, which — according to campaign rhetoric — means that if Donald Trump was a Marine he’d have relatively small tattoos.
The regulation reinforces the overall intent that “any tattoo, regardless of where it is cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive and is of nature to bring discredit to the Marine Corps or damage the nation’s expectations of them.” No ruling on where “Nickleback” logos fit within those guidelines.
“There is a reason why Marine Corps Recruiting has remained so successful throughout the years, when you ask Marines why they chose the Corps, most will tell you because they wanted to be different,” Green said. (Really . . .)
And nothing says “different” these days than some killer ink. Tribal armband, anyone? Just keep it under three inches wide, Devil Dog.
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was one of the most influential and innovative heart doctors in the United States. The man whom the Journal of the American Medical Association once called “the greatest surgeon ever” lived to be 99 years old. In that time, he served his country, saved tens of thousands of lives (including his own), and completely revolutionized the way surgeons work on the human heart.
While a surgeon in World War II, he urged that doctors be moved from hospitals to the front, where medics were usually the only aid available. He created what would become known in the Korean War as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or “MASH”) unit. The Army awarded him the Legion of Merit for this innovation.
DeBakey developed medical programs to care for returning veterans. President Truman asked him to transfer the Houston Navy Hospital to the VA. That hospital, still named after DeBakey, was Baylor University’s first affiliate and first surgical residency program.
The doctor invented many heart-related surgical devices, including the roller pump, which he invented while still in medical school. That pump became the centerpiece of the heart-lung machine, which takes over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery by supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. Dr. DeBakey’s other surgical innovations, like grafting, bypasses, and the use of mechanical assistance devices are now common practice.
He also was the first to make the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. The idea that inhaling smoke may hurt one’s lungs may seem like an obvious one to us today, when DeBakey and Dr. Alton Ochsner made the connection in 1939, their work was ridiculed by the medical community. The Surgeon General officially documented it in 1964.
Conventional practitioners also ridiculed DeBakey’s idea about using Dacron (polyester) grafts to repair damaged arteries, a procedure that was used to save his life in 2006 when he had a torn aorta.
In 1969, President Johnson awarded Dr. DeBakey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given a United States citizen. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science. In 2008, he received the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony attended by President Bush. He died in 2008 and was granted ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery by the Secretary of the Army.
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was the heart surgeon for the last Shah of Iran, of King Edward VIII of England, Marlene Dietrich, Joe Louis, and Presidents Johnson and Nixon. More than that, he was the surgeon who cared about saving the lives of regular troops. In combat he reformed the way the Army manages casualty care, and as a civilian he reformed the way America takes care of its veterans.
You’ll use it as a multi-tool, including to tie down cammie netting, attach extra gear to your body armor and air dry your laundry.
3. Shock resistant camera
Deployments are life changing experiences. You’re going to want to capture the moments, but not any camera will do.
Shock resistant Cameras are designed for rugged outdoor use and are great when ambushing ISIS. They tend to run a little more expensive than traditional digital cameras, but when you’re on patrol and take heavy fire, these little bad boys shouldn’t let you down when recording your personal history.
4. A Cheap laptop
Deployments can be boring, with loads of downtime if you’re lucky. Consider bringing a cheap laptop with as many movies as your external hard drive can hold. Don’t spend too much money on one; chances are dust and debris will ruin it after too long.
What better way to spend a Friday night with your brothers then huddling around a 15-inch screen watching an action movie. The more variety of movies you have in stock the better.
5. Calling cards
No, we don’t mean that unique object you leave after getting away with a heist.
A calling card or phone card allows you to make calls from any working phone without charging the expenses to the receiver. It can get pretty expensive that way.
Many foreign bases around the world have USOs set up for deployed members to call home or use the internet. Some require the purchase of calling cards so have one handy dandy if you walk into one where Uncle Sam is too cheap to fit the phone bill.
6. Music player
Self-explanatory, because everyone likes music.
7. Magazine subscriptions
Having new magazines show up during mail call is one of the greatest gifts a Marine can receive. Especially, when you’re in an all-male infantry unit stationed in the middle of bum f*ck nowhere and Maxim magazine arrives. Everyone celebrates.
Typically, an amputation ends a military career. For a long time, most any level of amputation was considered to make a service member unfit for combat. As of last summer, only 57 amputees had returned to conflict zones and most of those stayed at a desk.
These three men wanted to get back into the fight.
1. The Ranger who swore he’d still be a squad leader
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski was in an armored vehicle when insurgents threw a grenade into it. Kapacziewski survived the blast with serious injuries. After months of surgeries and casts, he attempted to walk on his right leg again and heard the pins holding it together snap. Soon after, he asked doctors to remove it.
Over the months and years that followed, Kapacziewski (a.k.a. “Joe Kap”) relearned how to do the basic tasks required of Rangers . He ran, rucked, parachuted, and completed Army drills with his prosthetic leg. Since his amputation, he has conducted four combat deployments and even earned an Army Commendation Medal for pulling an injured soldier 75 yards during a firefight.
2. The paratrooper who led an airborne platoon with a prosthetic
1st Lt. Josh Pitcher finished relieving himself on the side of the road, closed his fly, and heard the loud pop of a small roadside bomb. Two days later, he was in a hospital in Germany, promising to return to combat despite losing his left leg beneath the knee. Before he could even try and return to active duty, Pitcher had to kick a pill and drinking habit he got trying to deal with the pain after his surgeries. But, he learned how to do his old job with his new leg. Less than two years after his injury, he returned with his unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Afghanistan. A few months later, he took over a 21-man platoon and led them for the rest of the deployment, most of it trudging through the mountains in the northern regions of the country .
3. The captain who calmly reported his own double amputation
When then-1st Lt. Daniel Luckett’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq in 2008, a squad leader called up to ask if everything was all right. Luckett calmly responded, “Negative. My feet are gone.” Two years later, Capt. Luckett was with the 101st Airborne Division again; this time in Afghanistan. He uses a small prosthetic to assist what remains of his right leg. A much larger one serves as his left. His second day with his first prosthetic, he attempted to walk away with the leg. Doctors tried to get it back, but Luckett convinced them to let him keep it. He would go on to earn the Expert Infantry Badge during his efforts to prove he was still an asset. After successfully earning the award, the soldier was promoted to captain and allowed to deploy with his unit as part of the Afghan surge.
A bit of budgetary gamesmanship by the US Air Force earlier this month seems to have paid off, as the House Armed Services Committee has allotted money to keep the vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt in the air, according to Defense News.
The committee chairman’s draft of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes $103 million for an unfunded requirement related to the A-10 that the Air Force included in its budget request.
The $103 million, plus $20 million from this fiscal year, will go toward restarting production of A-10 wings to upgrade 110 of the Air Force’s 283 Thunderbolts.
Defense experts told CNN earlier this month that the Air Force’s inclusion of the A-10 wing money in its unfunded requirements was likely a ploy to get Congress to add money for the venerable Thunderbolt on top of the money apportioned for the service branch’s budget request.
Members of the House Armed Service Committee looked likely to approve money for the A-10, which is popular among both service members and elected officials like committee member Rep. Marth McSally, herself a former A-10 pilot, and Sen. John McCain.
Photo courtesy of USAF
McSally noted during a hearing earlier this month that the Air Force had committed to retaining just six of its nine squadrons of A-10s and pressed Air Force officials to outline their plans for the fleet.
The Air Force currently plans to keep the A-10 in service over the next five years at minimum, after which point the fleet will need some maintenance. US Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes told Defense News this month that without new wings, those 110 A-10s would have to go out of service, though he did say the Air Force had some leeway with its resources.
“When their current wings expire, we have some flexibility in the depot; we have some old wings that can be repaired or rejuvenated to go on,” he told Defense News. “We can work through that, so there’s some flex in there.”
The Air Force has been looking at whether and how to retire the A-10 for some time, amid pushback from elected officials and increased demand for close air support against ISIS, in which the A-10 specializes.
The five-year cushion described by Holmes gives the service more time to evaluate the aircraft and whether to replace it with F-35s or another aircraft.
The National Defense Authorization Act only approves a total amount of funding, Defense News notes, which means others in the House and Senate could choose to direct those funds to projects other than the A-10’s refurbishment.
The Air Force’s priorities may change as well.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Defense News that the service had a defense strategy review in progress, after which the service life of the A-10 — which has been in the air since 1975 — could be extended. Though, Wilson said, the Air Force has a number of platforms that need upgrades.
With the increasing number of forest fires on the West Coast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has had to ask the California National Guard for help containing the blazes.
Soldiers of the National Guard have been called in to assist both on the ground and in the air. Chinook crews have been flying missions to drop water from nearby lakes onto the wildfires. Here’s what they see while completing their mission.
Helicopter crews pick up water from lakes in Bambi Buckets, large water carriers with remote-operated valves.
Once they have the water, the crews target areas where the fire is attempting to spread.
The crews map out nearby water features and plan their flights so they can refill and return to the fire as quickly as possible.
The pilots’ navigation equipment was designed for war and provides more than enough information for them to navigate on the objective.
The crew assist the pilots in targeting the fire and aiming the water.
These images and the below video were taken from the California Rocky Fire which burned for 16 days and consumed over 69,000 acres. 96 buildings were destroyed and 8 damaged before it was contained.
Check out the video below to see the California National Guard crews go through their mission.
In the military’s acronym-packed lingo, SGLI stands for “Service Members Group Life Insurance,” and according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is a “program that provides low-cost term life insurance coverage to eligible service members.”
Troops that are eligible for SGLI are active duty in any of the service branches; commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service; cadets, or midshipmen of a U.S. military academy; members, cadets, or midshipmen of an ROTC unit and engaged in authorized training or practice cruises; a member of the reserve or National Guard and are scheduled to attend a minimum of 12 periods of inactive training per year; or a service member who volunteers for mobilization in the Individual Ready Reserve.
Service members who are eligible for SGLI are automatically enrolled at the maximum rate of $400,000, though they may choose to decline or lower their coverage and make changes to it.
Service members retain their SGLI coverage for 120 days after separation from the service, though completely disabled veterans may extend that coverage for a maximum of two years after separation.
Reserve members who do not qualify for coverage are allotted “part-time” coverage.
So why do you need SGLI anyway?
Being a service member is obviously a high risk job. High risk jobs, according to CheatSheet, can cost as much as $2000 extra annually for life insurance companies, which is roughly 500 percent more than you’ll pay through your SGLI.
The bottom line is that SGLI is incredibly inexpensive, at just $29 a month, and it’s worth it for your family to have some peace of mind should something happen to you in the line of duty.
The US Navy is an institution rich in tradition with its own language and elaborate ceremonies. One of those ceremonies is the Chief Petter Officer initiation.
Ask any sailor what a newly made chief does as soon as they put on the khaki uniform and you’ll get mixed results. Responses vary from the good to the awfully absurd and usually based on a sailor’s time in service.
For example, this sailor on Facebook said that his chief completely changed when he put on the khakis for the first time:
Ask a chief and he’ll say that it’s one of the hardest and most satisfying jobs in the world:
WATM did an informal poll of sailors of all ranks to uncover the nine common things that new chiefs do when they put on the khakis:
1. Smile incessantly for about an hour.
They’ve just been made and now have the privilege to do the following eight things:
2. Get a new coffee mug that says “chief.”
A good chief’s mug will be respected and left alone. A bad chief will have their mug washed out. Apparently, chiefs have it in their mind that their unwashed coffee mugs have super caffeine powers.
3. Start calling everyone ‘shipmate.’
Everyone becomes a “shipmate” once you become a chief. It used to be that they call everyone by their rate (Navy job) and rank.
4. Start calling other khakis by their first names.
It’s now Frankie and Jane instead of Smith and Martinez.
5. Start eating like a king in the chief’s mess.
Rumor has it that the chiefs eat better than the officers aboard a ship.
6. Gain weight.
Everything has a cause and effect.
7. Pass off the ensign to the first-class.
They lose an ensign but gain a lieutenant.
8. Wait for the first person to call him ‘sir’ so he can say, “don’t call me sir, I work for a living.”
Along with the new position comes treasure trove of cliché terms that they’ve been waiting years to use. (Poor boot, he confused the chief for an officer.)
For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.
But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.
Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.
The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.
Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.
Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.
Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.
In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.
Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.
This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.
Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.
But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.
This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.
China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.
But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.
Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.
SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.
Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.
In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreasedby 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.
Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.
Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory uses a picture of Mickey Mouse in its official logo, and it turns out that Walt Disney is totally fine with that.
The Army’s crime lab investigates serious crimes “in which the Army has an interest,” providing everything from forensic laboratory support to the experts that testify in criminal cases. Since they are the folks trying to figure out what happened on a crime scene, it makes sense to have a logo that reflects the profession.
In the Army’s case, that’s a picture of Mickey Mouse looking like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass.
In 1943 the world was at war, and millions of Americans had been called to serve their country. The chain-of-command realized that in order to defeat the enemy aggressors, they had to control the internal criminal element. To assist in accomplishing this mission, the Army’s first forensic laboratory was activated on October 1, 1943, as the Scientific Investigations Branch of the Provost Marshal’s Office, 12th U.S. Army Group, Algiers, French North Africa.
The Laboratory consisted of 2nd Lt. George R. “Pappy” Bird and a photographer. They moved with advancing forces from Algiers to Naples, Italy where Sgt. James Boarders joined the new crime laboratory. The team then moved on to southern France. During this time all their work was done in borrowed offices of abandoned homes. As the offensive picked up speed, Bird, who had been promoted to captain, saw the need for a mobile laboratory. While in Marseilles, France, he obtained a weapons repair truck and its driver from the 27th MP Detachment (CI) and converted it into a laboratory. Bird later added a jeep and a chemist to his team and rejoined the allied advance; crossing the Rhine River and moving into the heart of Germany. The laboratory ended its wartime duty in Fulda, later moved to Wiesbaden, and then to Frankfurt.
The lab has been accredited since 1985, and is the only full service forensic laboratory the DoD has. On the command’s website is a letter from Walt Disney Productions (which is watermarked on the logo under Mickey’s feet), explaining that the studio is just fine with its appropriation of everyone’s favorite mouse: