The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled - We Are The Mighty
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The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Despite the lifting of a federal hiring freeze, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving thousands of positions unfilled, citing the need for a leaner VA as it develops a longer-term plan to allow more veterans to seek medical care in the private sector.


The order by VA Secretary David Shulkin is described in an internal April 14 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press. The VA indicated it would proceed with filling open positions previously exempted under the hiring freeze. Noting that the White House had ordered all departments to be leaner and “more accountable,” the VA indicated that more than 4,000 jobs would still be left vacant unless they were specially approved “position by position” by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.”

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

These positions include roughly 4,000 in the VA’s health arm and 200 in benefits, plus more than 400 information technology positions and over 100 human resource positions, according to VA data provided to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in April. Government auditors have previously faulted the department for recent shortages in IT and HR, which it said it had hurt its ability to recruit and hire key staff department-wide.

Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need “hiring surges” to address a rapidly growing disability backlog. The groups have cautioned against any “privatization” efforts at the VA that could expand private care for veterans while reducing investment in the VA itself.

“It seems to be a reversal of what they have been saying, and it’s disappointing,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters.

Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group was concerned the VA would overlook positions that didn’t directly affect health care, such as staffing of its suicide prevention hotline.

Also read: These 5 vets discuss the ups and downs of the VA

In a statement April 26, the VA said the hiring restrictions were needed to “streamline VA’s corporate structure and administrative positions.”

While President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, the memo indicated that the government’s second largest agency with nearly 370,000 employees was no different from other departments that needed to improve “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and left open the possibility of “near-term” and “long-term workforce reductions.” Shulkin is also putting together a broader proposal by fall to expand the VA’s Choice program of private-sector care.

“This memo lifts the federal hiring freeze. However, this does not mean business as usual for hiring,” stated VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson. She said VA leadership aimed to proceed in the coming months with “deliberative hiring strategies” as it seeks to build “a future VA of Choice.”

The memo comes as the Trump administration seeks to highlight accomplishment and accountability at the VA. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as “the most corrupt” and pledged to expand private care.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Trump planned to sign an executive order April 27 to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

Shulkin has acknowledged that the VA was hurt initially by the hiring freeze because it could not hire claims processors. Shulkin later exempted those positions, including 242 the VA earmarked for this year to specifically address an appeals backlog, a 36 percent increase. But the VA has said it would need an additional hiring “surge” of at least 1,458 full-time staff to stem a growing appeals backlog. The backlog was expected to exceed 1 million within a decade, with average wait times of 8.5 years. The current wait time is as many as five years.

Shulkin also has signaled, without naming specific locations, that underutilized VA facilities will have to close. “There are some parts of the country where facilities are sitting empty, and there is no sense in keeping them empty,” he has said.

Meanwhile, the VA is stepping up efforts to root out bad employees.

The executive order being signed by Trump would create a VA office to “discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans.”

Recent audits by the VA inspector general and a report by The Associated Press in February found a pattern of poor VA compliance involving equipment and drug inventory checks, putting patients at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center and leading to a sharp rise in opioid thefts across the VA system since 2009.

In March, the Republican-led House approved legislation to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend, or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. But the measure has been slow to move in the Senate after Democrats and unions cast it as an attack on workers’ rights.

AP writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

North Korea’s monstrous new ICBM is America’s latest nuclear headache

Seriously 2020, what next?

At a military parade on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Korean Workers Party, North Korea unveiled a new and massive intercontinental ballistic missile, which arms experts say may be capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the US homeland.


Experts say the new North Korean ICBM is probably called the Hwasong-16. Measuring some 82 to 85 feet in length, about 9 feet in diameter, and likely weighing between 220,000 and 330,000 pounds at launch, it’s the world’s largest mobile missile, according to an Oct. 10 assessment from 38 North, a North Korea-focused intelligence and analysis website.

The 38 North authors estimate the new ICBM, which is an upgrade of the existing Hwasong-15 missile, could “in principle” deliver a payload of 4,400 to 7,700 pounds “to any point in the continental United States.”

North Korea also reportedly unveiled a new solid-fuel, submarine-launched missile at Saturday’s parade. Yet, the massive, liquid-fueled, road-mobile ICBM is what caught the eye of US officials and nuclear arms experts, sparking concerns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might try to exploit this new weapon to extort diplomatic concessions from the US.

“It’s not clear why the North Koreans invested in huge missiles. All I can think of is that they are replicating those parts of the old Soviet ICBM force that worried us the most in the 1970s and 1980s, and hope to get some kind of favorable reaction from us, something that will make us trade something [North Korea] wants, such as international recognition and lifting of sanctions, in exchange for getting rid of the missiles,” Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, arms control expert, and former chief scientist of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo by Lokman Karadag via Twitter.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal comprises some 30 to 40 weapons and enough fissile material on hand for six or seven more, according to the Arms Control Association. A US government study in 2017 estimated that North Korea’s production of weapons-grade material may be enough to build some 12 nuclear weapons a year.

“An unexpected ‘super heavy’ ICBM would be a classically Khrushchevian statement of North Korea’s technical prowess, the robustness of its ability to threaten the US, and the permanence of its nuclear weapons status,” wrote the 38 North authors, referring to the former Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, whose decision to place nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 sparked the Cuban missile crisis.

“Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense nuclear deterrence, the word ‘war’ would no longer exist on this land, and the security and future of our state will be guaranteed forever,” North Korea’s Kim reportedly said during a July 28 speech.

Although North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017, a report by a panel of UN experts, released last month, determined that Pyongyang has likely developed the ability to manufacture miniaturized nuclear warheads. North Korea is also reportedly working to develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, also known as MIRVs, for its biggest ICBMs.

If those assessments are accurate, Pyongyang may already be capable of arming a single missile with multiple warheads, each of which can target a different location after release from the mother missile. Such a missile system would be much more difficult for America’s missile defense shield to destroy. However, its presence on North Korean territory also offers America’s strategic military forces a “lucrative” option for a nuclear counterstrike, Zimmerman said, adding that North Korea was “putting all their nuclear eggs under one shroud.”

“I don’t see an increase in the overall nuclear threat to the United States, because I think that deterrence is pretty robust. That said, very large ICBMs with multiple warheads increase the consequences should anything go wrong. That cannot be a good thing,” said Zimmerman, who is now emeritus professor of Science and Security at King’s College London.

The 38 North authors doubted whether Pyongyang has developed a “militarily useful” MIRV system, noting that North Korea’s military has not yet flight-tested an operational MIRV from the second stage of an ICBM. The massive new ICBM revealed over the weekend has also not been flight tested, raising questions about its operational utility.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to carry nuclear weapons, on display in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Thomas Moore, a former senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told Coffee or Die Magazine.

“[North Korea] may need larger missiles for heavy payloads. They may also simply be faking it,” Moore said, adding that trying to derive useful intelligence from parade images is “useful speculation, but still just speculation.”

Pyongyang’s new missiles mark the latest in a series of incremental upticks in the overall global nuclear threat against the US.

US and Russian leaders appear to be at an impasse in negotiations to save the New START agreement — the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty between the two Cold War-era foes — before it expires in February. The US side says China is in the midst of a “crash nuclear program” and any future deal with Russia must impose limits on China’s nuclear arsenal, too.

“The antiquated Cold War construct of a bilateral, two-country-only solution does not work in a world where a third party — in this case China — is rapidly building up,” Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the US special presidential envoy for arms control, told reporters in June.

“So we think and what we seek to do is avoid a three-way arms race, and we believe the very best way to do that is to arrive and achieve a three-way nuclear deal,” Billingslea said.

China is expected to “at least double” the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade, US officials have said. China is also reportedly developing a so-called nuclear triad — comprising the ability to deliver nuclear weapons by ground-based ICBMs, by sea-launched missiles from submarines, and by aircraft.

In April, the US State Department published a report raising concerns that China had conducted low-yield nuclear tests in 2019 at a site called Lop Nur. And last year China test-fired more than 200 ballistic missiles, “far more than the rest of the world combined,” Billingslea said in August.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) off the coast of California. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/Released.

According to the Arms Control Association, the US possesses some 6,185 nuclear weapons, while Russia has 6,490 such weapons in its arsenal. The US-based Federation of American Scientists estimated China has about 320 warheads — roughly on par with France’s number of 300.

“While Beijing has long focused on maintaining a minimum deterrent, it is likely that its nuclear stockpile will increase in the next few decades,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in an April 2020 report.

The report’s authors added: “Additionally, if the United States continues to expand and strengthen its missile defense program, China may modify its nuclear posture to include a significantly larger nuclear force with the potential to strike the United States.”

Signed by former Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty limits Russia and the US each to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers. The original START I was signed in 1991, six months before the Soviet Union dissolved.

In addition to China’s inclusion, the US also wants New START to enact limits on Russia’s newest weapons, including hypersonic missiles and nuclear-powered cruise missiles, which were not included in the original deal. So far, Russia has balked at meeting America’s requirements, setting up a contentious final few months of negotiations in advance of New START’s expiration in February.

President Donald Trump is trying to secure a deal with Moscow to extend the strategic arms treaty before the upcoming presidential election, Axios reported Sunday. Putin, too, has said he’s open to renegotiating the pact. However, in June the Russian president raised some eyebrows in Washington when he signed an executive order authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks that “threaten the existence” of Russia or its nuclear forces.

Meanwhile, in defiance of US and international sanctions, Iran has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program. In June the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated it would take Iran three to six months to manufacture enough weapons-grade material to produce a nuclear weapon.

“The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi told the German newspaper Die Presse in an interview published Saturday.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Trump could kick women out of military combat jobs, reversing a historic 2013 policy change

President-elect Donald Trump could reverse a historic policy change kicked off in 2013 allowing women to serve in direct combat roles, and that has advocates of the change worried.


“We are absolutely concerned,” Kate Germano, a former Marine lieutenant colonel who now serves as COO of the Service Women’s Action Network, told Business Insider.

Also read: Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

SWAN and other groups have long lobbied for a change in the policy excluding women from certain direct combat roles, such as infantry and artillery. They won that fight in 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all military services to lift the ban on women in combat roles, giving them until January 2016 to fully integrate or ask for special exemptions.

Only the Corps asked for that exemption, which was overruled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

However, since Congress never passed a law on the issue, a Trump White House could just reverse the decision made by the Obama administration, or order exceptions to be made for certain services, such as the Marine Corps.

“It’s our earnest hope” the next administration will look at quality of service members rather than gender, said Germano, though some things Trump has said on the campaign trail cast doubt on whether that will be the case.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
US Marine Corps

When asked in October by a former Army colonel what he would do about the “social engineering and political correctness” that had been imposed on the military, Trump seemed to agree that the military’s acceptance of transgendered troops and women in combat roles was wrongheaded.

“You’re right. We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day,” Trump said. “And a lot of the great people in this room don’t even understand how it’s possible to do that. And that’s through intelligence, not through ignorance — believe me — because some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”

Though he added: “I would say I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned to the generals, the admirals, the people on top.”

As it stands right now, there’s at least one person in top leadership who seems to disagree with the policy change — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford— who would be one of Trump’s closest military advisors, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Others in the Republican Party seem to be weighing in ahead of Trump’s transition as well. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer who has been floated as a potential pick for Defense Secretary, on Sunday called for a “counterrevolution” in the military.

“It doesn’t do anything to further our capacity as war fighters,” Hunter told The Washington Times of women being placed in infantry roles. “It doesn’t do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It’s just a distraction. It’s not like there are thousands of women getting into the infantry now. It will never be that way.”

Like Hunter and others, critics of the policy change have referred to it as “social engineering” within the military ranks. But Germano disagrees with that assessment, telling Business Insider it’s not social engineering but instead, expanding the pool of qualified applicants who can do jobs within the military.

“We believe that women who are highly-qualified for the position and can do the job should have the opportunity to do the job,” Germano said.

A reversal in policy wouldn’t just affect women who had planned to go into combat roles in the future. Since the military has been slowly integrating them into the force, some women would have to be taken out of the roles they had trained for alongside men and put back into non-combat jobs.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

In October, the Army graduated 10 new female infantry officers, many of whom are now going through follow-on training before they will be assigned to infantry units. Another woman, Capt. Kristen Griest, transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.

While the Marine Corps has graduated some enlisted females through its infantry training pipeline, no women have been able to graduate its infantry officer course, though more than 30 have tried.

If President-elect Trump decides to change the policy back, he would deal with pushback from the courts. A 2012 lawsuit filed by four female service members who claimed that being excluded from some roles was a violation of their constitutional rights is still ongoing.

The DoD tried to have the suit dismissed after the ban was lifted, but it still remains in litigation — in part because the next president could single-handedly deny those women those rights in the future.

“If we have a Republican president, we may well be in the same position we were when we filed this complaint, a categorical exclusion of all women from combat units,” Steven Perry, an attorney for the four women, told a judge in federal court, according to the Military Times.

The Judge agreed with that assessment and set the next court date for January 12 — eight days before Trump is inaugurated as president.

Regardless of the final status of women in combat roles, it’s clear that women have been involved in combat through the Global War on Terror. Two of the plaintiffs in the 2012 suit were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart medal, and many other women have served alongside male infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan on “female engagement teams.”

Articles

The assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey will likely bring the countries ‘closer together’

The assassination on Monday of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey at an art gallery in Ankara is unlikely to fracture relations between the two countries as they work to improve their tumultuous relationship, analysts said.


“On the contrary, both Russia and Turkey will point to the murder as reason why they should cooperate more closely in fighting terrorism,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Monday.

“Erdogan will surely express great regret to the Russian, and acknowledge that Turkey must do more in their domestic security environment,” Bremmer said, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “That means more crackdowns at home, but not a sudden blowup with Moscow.”

Related: This is how NATO could go to war against itself

The death of the ambassador, Andrey Karlov, immediately prompted comparisons to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 that led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, which ultimately sparked World War I.

But statements released by Russian and Turkish officials in the aftermath of Karlov’s death suggested Moscow and Ankara were determined not to let the incident derail their rapprochement.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a statement that the government would not allow the assassination to harm Russian-Turkish relations.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Russian press conference in 2014. | Russian State Media

Erdogan echoed Yildirim’s sentiment, calling the attack “provocation” aimed at damaging Turkey’s normalization of ties with Russia. He said that Turkey and Russia will jointly investigate the assassination, reiterating that “intense cooperation with Russia” over Aleppo was “helping to save lives.”

“I call out to those who are trying to break this relationship,” Erdogan continued, “Your expectations are wasted.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called the assassination an attempt to “undermine” Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow’s attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.

The Kremlin, which declared the assassination a terrorist attack, said talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, over Syria would take place as planned in Moscow on Tuesday.

“Ankara and Moscow will likely seek to avoid a diplomatic crisis over Karlov’s assassination,” said Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Russia will, however, likely step up military actions in Syria and seek revenge against those connected with the assassin.”

The Turkish government, meanwhile, was apparently preparing to blame a domestic opposition movement, known as the Gulenists, for the attack. The movement is led by Turkish preacher Fetullah Gulen, who has lived in exile in the US since 1999.

The mayor of Ankara alleged in a tweet shortly after the attack that the gunman was a Gulenist and that his declarations about Aleppo were merely a distraction — a narrative that was repeated and expanded upon by Turkish media in the aftermath of the assassination. A senior Turkish senior official later told Reuters that Ankara’s investigation will focus on the gunman’s links to the Gulen network.

Mark Kramer, the program director of the Project on Cold War Studies at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said he thinks Russia and Turkey are preparing to blame “certain forces — i.e., the United States— that supposedly are trying to derail the Russian-Turkish normalization.”

“This theme undoubtedly will become a staple of Russian (and maybe Turkish) propaganda in coming days to deflect attention from the egregious security lapse,” Kramer told Business Insider on Monday, “and to put pressure on the outgoing and incoming US administrations.”

Turkish-Russian relations had been precarious but improving since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.

Also read: These elite Russian special forces want to take over Aleppo

Erdogan’s reluctance to sign on to certain European Union membership requirements and his increasingly authoritarian leadership over Turkey have also sparked concern among European leaders that he is not committed to a Western conception of human rights and civil liberties.

NATO has also expressed concern over Erdogan’s purging of thousands of Turkish civil servants — as well as military personnel, police officers, academics, and teachers — from their positions on suspicion that they were associated with the coup attempt.

“Ankara is going to use this as an opportunity to embrace Russia tighter,” Koplow said. “The analogy to WWI ignores the fact that there was a host of incentives, including entangling alliances and multiple competing great powers, that made war a more obvious choice for the parties involved. That is not the case here, particularly given that Turkey is hardly a proxy for the West these days despite its NATO membership.”

Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on Russian military affairs at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said that “a lot will depend on how the Russian government chooses to play it.”

“My initial guess is that the two countries will pledge to work together against terrorism,” Gorenburg told Business Insider on Monday. “But we will see soon enough.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return from deployment just in time for Thanksgiving

The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.


During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”

11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the new US course in Syria will collide with Iran’s

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently laid out a new U.S. approach to the conflict in Syria, and two things became immediately clear — the U.S. is staying in Syria and conflict with Iran could be coming.


Up until this point, the U.S. presence in Syria has focused on fighting ISIS, the terror group that gained control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014. But with ISIS in rapid decline and its once U.K.-sized territory all but completely removed from their grasp, Tillerson described Iran as the new principal threat to U.S. interests in Syria.

“Continued strategic threats to the U.S. from not just ISIS and Al Qaeda, but from others, persist,” Tillerson said earlier in January. “And this threat I’m referring to is principally Iran.”

Tillerson said Iran “is positioning to continue attacking U.S. interests, our allies, and personnel in the region” through its positioning in Syria.

In no uncertain terms, Tillerson said Iran dreams of a land arch that would connect them to their ally, Lebanon, through Syria, where it can provide weapons support to anti- U.S. and anti-Isreal terror groups. He noted that one of the U.S.’s desired end results is that “Iranian influence in Syria is diminished, their dreams of a northern arch are denied, and Syria’s neighbors are secure from all threats emanating from Syria.”

While the new strategy does not guarantee outright fighting between the U.S. and Iran, it puts the U.S.’s 2,000 or so troops in Syria in direct strategic competition with Iran’s estimated 70,000.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speak to members of the press . (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Numbers can be deceiving

Despite an apparent 35 to 1 numbers advantage for Iranian and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria, Iran’s forces are weak, overexposed, and certain to fare poorly in a direct competition with the U.S., according to Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

U.S. and U.S.-backed forces have already come into contact with Iranian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria, and the short engagements proved decisive victories for the US, which holds considerable advantages in air power and high-end warfighting.

But those skirmishes only focused on getting Iranian forces off the backs of U.S.-aligned forces while the U.S. focused on defeating ISIS. In the US’s new campaign to shut down Iran’s hoped-for land bridge to Lebanon, the U.S. will likely have to work with local allies, according to Badran.

“The U.S. is going to have to develop local Arab fighting forces,” said Badran, “But you can do a lot more damage a lot quicker by expanding or amplifying the existing Israeli campaign by going after installations, mobile targets, or senior cadres.”

Israel, while it has stayed out of the majority of its neighbor Syria’s civil war, has made no apologies for stepping in with airstrikes when it feels Iran getting to close to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah militia vows to wage war against the Jewish state.

Also Read: Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

With Israel potentially at its back, the U.S. “has assets far beyond 2,000 guys out in the desert somewhere,” said Badran. The U.S. can call on naval power, aircraft carriers, nearby air bases, allied air power, standoff weapons like cruise missiles, and artillery.

Iran sacrifices asymmetrical advantage

While Iran usually enjoys what military analysts call an “asymmetrical advantage” over U.S. forces in the Middle East, or its ability to fight against U.S. interests using proxy armies and less-than-lethal force, that advantage disappears in a direct confrontation. If Iran mounted a large-scale attack on U.S. forces in Syria, the bases, depots, and planners involved in the attack would be quickly reduced to rubble, according to Badran.

For that reason, Iran may look to avoid direct military engagement with the U.S., and simply continue to support the U.S.’s enemies while playing the long game of aggravating the U.S. and hoping Washington’s will breaks before Tehran’s.

But another prong of the U.S.’s strategy in Syria is to isolate the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

“We’re going to treat Syria like North Korea — an economic, not just a political pariah,” said Badran.

With the U.S. pressuring allies not to do business with the Assad regime and providing no money for reconstruction, the Syrian government, Iran’s ally, may weaken, making way for a less Iran-friendly administration in the future, thereby denying Tehran its land bridge without a shot fired.

The U.S. won’t go it alone

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
On the walls of the former American embassy. (Image Flickr Babak Fakhamzadeh)

Tehran has its own problems to worry about. Country-wide protests over the country’s steep inequality and billions in spending on foreign adventurism have threatened the very fabric of its leadership. Local Syrians — a diverse, mainly Sunni bunch — also may prove resistant to Iran, the dominant Shiite Muslim power in the region.

Though the   U.S. and Turkey frequently clash over differences in their vision for Syria, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute expert James Jeffrey says Washington and Ankara ultimately agree on the broad goals.

“Right now, about 40% of Syria is under control of U.S. or Turkey, and while U.S. and Turkey are not all that well coordinated, both U.S. and Turkey see the goal to a transition to a regime that will not do what [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has done,” said Jeffrey.

Jeffrey added that Turkey also would like to reduce the role of Iran in Syria, as Tehran has a “tendency to bully the Sunni Arab population” which could lead to another civil war.

Badran does not question that the U.S. could easily overwhelm or destroy Iranian forces in Syria, and instead believes the real challenge lies in determining who will establish control of southern Syria in the future.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an Air Force pilot saved a United Airlines flight

For most airmen going on leave for the holidays, the time off means an escape from their everyday Air Force career. After all, when is someone going to need a loadmaster at the liquor store (unless there’s a huge bourbon shortage at an egg nog festival and Costco is planning a relief drop from a C-17)?

An Air Force pilot on a United Airlines flight, however, is another story.


Like a scene out of a movie, Captain Mike Gongol was on a flight to see his extended family in Denver from Des Moines in 2013 when the B1-B Lancer pilot noticed the Boeing 737’s engine begin to idle — something only another pilot would realize. When the plane began to descend and drift to the right, he knew something was up.

He was right. A nurse on board the flight, Linda Alweiss, entered the cockpit, and found the pilot slumped over in his seat.

The rest of the plane knew something was up when a flight attendant asked the passengers if there was a doctor aboard the plane. They were asked to remain seated as the crew ran up to first class with a medical kit. When the attendants again addressed the passengers, they asked if there were any “non-revenue pilots” aboard the plane.

Gongol realized the pilot was probably the patient – and his Air Force specialty was needed. The first officer must have been the only other pilot aboard. He “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”

“He was sick and mumbling and was just incoherent,” the nurse told KTLA.

A Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a very different craft from a Boeing 737. Differences in weight, crew, engine number and thrust, top speeds and ceilings are all significant factors. The moment Gongol entered the cockpit, he and the first officer sized one another up – he opted to support her as her first officer.

The Air Force captain decided to let her take the lead. He backed up her checklists, used the radio, and kept an eye out for anything going wrong.

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“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be,” Gongol told Air Force Space Command. It was only when they moved to land in Omaha that Gongol took the lead. The first officer had never landed in Omaha, but Capt. Gongol knew the airfield well, landing there many times in training. Still, he talked her through it.

The pilot, as well as the other 157 people aboard the flight, survived the trip.

Articles

How the Mosul assault crushed the ISIS chemical weapons capability

The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.


In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.

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DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released

“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.

“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”

IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki

IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.

The report released June 13th says the continuing chemical weapons attacks in Mosul most likely draw on remaining stockpiles in the city.

It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Traveling with kids while your spouse is deployed

The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.


Don’t forget the gifts

If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.

Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.

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Packing

Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.

Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.

Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.

Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.

Driving

No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.

Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.

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(live.staticflickr.com)

Other Helpful Apps:

Waze is a navigation app that alerts you to upcoming traffic and offers alternate route suggestions.

Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas nearby.

iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.

Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.

And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.

The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.

ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.

Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.

And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.

Flying

It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.

Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.

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If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.

Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.

But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.

Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.

You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA passed a major milestone March 7, 2019, in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.


“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”

Splashdown of SpaceX Crew Dragon, Completing Demo-1 Flight Test

www.youtube.com

Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test designed to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission began March 2, 2019, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of “firsts” in less than a week.

  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.
  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.
  • First autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft’s return journey and ocean splashdown.

“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly. It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

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Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast.

(NASA Television)

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test – a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft. After SpaceX processes data from this mission, teams will begin refurbishing Crew Dragon for its next mission, an in-flight abort test targeted to take place this summer. Demo-2, the first crewed test flight, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the spacecraft’s final flight to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“For the first time, we’ve gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we’ve brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we’ve gotten to see how they all work together, and that’s very important as we move toward putting people onboard,” said NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will crew SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2. “I’m, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle.”

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Articles

Which US plane best matches up with GOT dragons — BUFFs or Warthogs?

Let’s face it, everybody loves Danaerys Targaryen’s dragons. And why not? They bring the rain… well, more like they bring the kind of fire and brimstone that’d make Col. Kilgore from “Apocalypse Now” smile in the morning.


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Drogon would have Col. Kilgore in heaven. (WATM Archive)

There are planes that are very loved as well… like the A-10 Thunderbolt II. This plane is best known for its GAU-8 “Avenger” cannon, which brings a load of firepower. But the dragons have more payload than the beloved “Warthog.” In fact, they can devastate an entire area. Just look at this clip from “The Spoils of War.”

As you saw, Drogon is essentially delivering an “Arc Light” of fire on the Lannister/Tarly army. The plane that carried out the “Arc Light” missions is none other than the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, also known as the Big Ugly Fat F@cker, or “BUFF.”

And like the BUFF, Drogon unleashes long, long trails of fire, like the string of 51 Mk 82 500-pound bombs (or M117 750-pound bombs) that a B-52 delivers in those carpet-bombing raids. Who remembers the dragons tearing apart the slavers’ fleet? Did you know that B-52s have been equipped to carry AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles?

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This is what a normal B-52 Stratofortress can carry, and Harpoons, too! (USAF photo)

But Drogon was doing a fair bit of that in a close-air support role. That is the bread-and butter mission of the A-10 Thunderbolt. His first pass cut a hole through the Lannister lines. And like the A-10, which is legendary for taking damage and getting back home, Drogon showed he could take a hit and still remain very dangerous. Hell, he even pulled the same “fire from the ground” maneuver Doug Masters did, and Jamie Lannister is darn lucky he isn’t a crispy critter after that “gun run.”

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(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

This does seem perplexing. Are Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal more like BUFFs, or are they more like the Warthogs that our ground troops love? There are good arguments both ways.

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In this case, the best answer may be that they combine the best of both of these legendary planes. They can handle the close-air support mission, but they are also very dangerous against strategic targets. The Mother of Dragons would have beaten Cersei a long time ago if she’d used `em properly at the beginning, instead of making big-time blunders.

Articles

Army to deploy Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe

To address the potential Russian threat, the Army will start rotating Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe, starting next year.


According to a report by the Army Times, the first unit to handle a rotation will come from the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. The European rotation will join Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in South Korea and Kuwait.

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(PHC D. W. HOLMES II, U.S. Navy)

The Army also announced that a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be converted from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team.

An Armored Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Armored Division will also be moved from training duties to the active rotation. The deployments to Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait are for nine months.

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A U.S. Army Bradley during a training exercise. (Photo by Private 1st Class James Dutkavich)

At present, there are only nine Armored Brigade Combat Teams in the Active Army, with five more in the National Guard. The conversion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s brigade will make it ten active Armored Brigade Combat Teams.

The only U.S. Army unit permanently deployed to Europe is the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker unit. Earlier this year, the Army received the first M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker modified with the Mk 46 Bushmaster II 30mm chain gun.

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The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems)

An Armored Brigade Combat Team has three battalions, each with two companies of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and two companied of mechanized infantry that each have 14 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

The brigade also has a reconnaissance squadron with three troops of 12 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles each.

The Army had to withdraw its Armored Brigade Combat Teams from Europe five years ago due to budget cuts caused by sequestration. A 2015 Army Times report outlined that the cuts reduced the number of brigade combat teams from 45 in 2012 to 30.

MIGHTY TRENDING

John Kelly is touted to be next VA Secretary

White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as rumors and calls for his ouster circulated throughout political circles.

Sources familiar with the situation explained to Vanity Fair that consideration for Kelly as VA secretary gained traction after Trump’s previous nominee, US Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, decided to withdraw his candidacy on April 26, 2018.


“They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican source told Vanity Fair.

Military service is not a requirement to lead the VA, but Kelly’s background as a former Marine Corps four-star general may give him an head start. As the second largest agency in the US government, the VA serves over nine million veterans for their medical and educational needs every year.

The VA’s sheer complexity has previously led to calls for the agency to be privatized for the sake of efficiency.

The VA still has thousands of jobs unfilled
Sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Kelly has some experience leading large institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security and US Southern Command, but the VA could prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Scandals related to accusations of inadequate care have plagued the department, and numerous secretaries have been forced out over the years.

A White House spokesperson denied that Kelly was being considered for VA secretary, according to Vanity Fair.

Rumors surrounding Kelly’s fate have intensified lately. And his role in the White House seemed to shrink as Trump reportedly takes more license to govern his own daily agenda.

Outside advisers to Trump have floated the idea of removing the chief of staff role completely, according to CNN.

Despite Trump’s initial praise for Kelly when he was brought on in July 2017, Kelly has reportedly fallen out of favor with Trump. Kelly was hired to establish order in Trump’s chaotic West Wing, which has shifted and buckled under multiple scandals and high-profile staff departures.

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

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