There are two kinds of infantry: Those who gladly pay the embarrassingly undervalued $42.95 reimbursement fee to TMO so they can keep their precious, and those who live with shame and regret for the rest of their days.
This is for the rest of you, not yet acquainted with absolute benevolence.
From the frigid mountains of Afghanistan to the jungles of Vietnam, the U.S. infantry fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and at sea, but not without that one piece of military-issued comfort: the woobie.
She keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool in the hot summer — we freakin’ love that.
4. It can conceal you while you sleep
Originally olive drab, the woobie has evolved into some of the best camouflage around for the infantry warrior. The woobie is currently sporting digital camouflage, appropriate to whichever branch it honorably serves.
3. It dries quickly when wet
Not everyone knows how truly miserable it is being wet for long stretches of time, but all infantrymen do. Google the term “trench foot” and you’ll quickly see that there’s nothing good about staying wet.
The woobie dries fast, and all infantry grunts praise her for it.
2. Don’t forget, it provides shelter when there is none
No shelter? No problem. If you have two packs and two poncho liners, you’re good to go. In fact, the more infantrymen, the more elaborate the structure you can construct by tieing them together. The woobie comes equipped with lashings on each corner and the sides, allowing for creative architecture.
Remember when you were a kid and blanket forts were a thing? It’s the same in the military, except with full-grown men and their arsenal huddled inside.
And not just the color green, though it usually is. The original woobies were fielded by special forces in 1962, and around 1963, the second generation of woobie was created utilizing WWII duck-hunter-patterned parachute fabric. The fabric entrusted with soldiers’ lives was recycled, reshaped, and repurposed to continue its contributions to a more substantial demographic.
The woobie is a staple of any infantryman’s loadout, and though it may follow the poncho on gear lists, the woobie follows nothing in infantrymen’s hearts. Warriors unite over its capabilities, and we honor woobie for all that it does.
The team behind the upcoming 007 film, dubbed Bond 25, released an unconventional first look in the form of behind-the-scenes footage and peeks from the movie. Set to take place all over the world, per usual, star Daniel Craig’s Bond-swan-song definitely looks to be a colorful flick.
The reveal includes Fukunaga in action, Craig looking cool-as-always, Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright as “Felix Leiter” (“a brother from Langley”), and Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch as “Nomi” on location in the Caribbean.
One of the most interesting and exciting additions to the project is writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Killing Eve and Fleabag — projects praised for their levity, humor, and surprising character moments.
Waller-Bridge will join Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Scott Z. Burns.
The official James Bond Twitter account is killing it when it comes to sharing Bond history, stories, and progress, including behind-the-scenes looks like this:
Daniel Craig and the @astonmartin V8 on location for #Bond25pic.twitter.com/cPgfMSlUYm
Los Angeles residents got a surprise this week when helicopters, ostensibly filled with Special Forces operators, began flying around the Los Angeles and Long Beach skylines, disgorging their fully armed passengers into parking lots while simulated gunfire and explosions rang out.
If you’re surprised to hear that the military instituted martial law in Los Angeles last night, well, obviously, it was an exercise.
As surprised residents began contacting journalists and taking to social media, the Army answered questions from journalists and told them that Los Angeles had been selected as a training location because its urban terrain is similar to that which soldiers might be deployed to in future conflicts.
Military exercises rattling nerves around LA | ABC7
“The local terrain and training facilities in Los Angeles provide the Army with unique locations and simulates urban environments the service members may encounter when deployed overseas,” the Army told CBS. “There is no replacement for realistic training. Each location selected enables special operations teams and flight crews to maintain maximum readiness and proficiency, validate equipment and exercise standard safety procedures.“
The Army said that it had alerted local residents to the training, but it’s hard to get the word out to everyone in such a densely populated area. Apparently, some people missed the memo or were simply driving through the exercise area and didn’t know about the drills until they saw what appeared to be a raid happening in front of their eyes.
Some property owners had given permission for the military to use their land and buildings, so the operators had a lot of options in their work. The training is scheduled to go through Saturday, February 9.
This isn’t the first time that local residents have gotten surprised by military training. For instance, in 2015, Texas residents had gotten plenty of warning that Jade Helm 15, a massive exercise including vehicles, special operators, and aircraft, would be taking place.
Texans protested the training and pressured the governor to assign member of the Texas State Guard, separate from the National Guard, to monitor the training and ensure the federal troops didn’t take any illegal actions during the exercise. It grew into a massive conspiracy theory before the event took off, but the actual exercise took place with little drama.
Update: An earlier version of this story said that Jade Helm included tanks, something that caused the author to slap himself in the face the next morning when he realized that he had said that. Jade Helm did not include tanks. It did include some vehicles, but mostly just HMMWVs.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell is used to talking with various people about military careers and the benefits that are offered to those who choose to wear the uniform and serve their country as a soldier. As a recruiter in the Malden, Massachusetts area, he is constantly talking to strangers, even off-duty, according to his wife Eunjee.
“The first year after I moved to America, I knew I needed a car,” Eunjee said. “We went to the car dealership and he recruited the car dealer.”
The couple met in Korea while Staff Sgt. Mitchell was stationed there. Originally meeting online and then they met face-to-face for the first time on New Year’s Day. They married shortly after and Eunjee Mitchell immigrated to the U.S. where her husband became a recruiter. She often would hear the conversations her husband had about joining the military. After two years of listening to her husband, she decided enlisting was the right choice for her.
“He was interviewing other recruiters and one was Korean like me. She told me how the Army helps her a lot to speak (better) English and get her involved in the community,” said Eunjee Mitchell. “The conversation with her gave me the thought that I could try.”
She enlisted as a 92A — Automated Logistical Specialist in the Army Reserves.
“I knew hanging around with me she would be interested in the Army but I didn’t think she would (join),” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “I definitely wrote her contract.”
After 10-weeks of South Carolina’s famously hot summer weather, Eunjee Mitchell walked across Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field with the rest of her company as they graduate Basic Combat Training. With three bachelor degrees, she graduated with the rank of specialist.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Mitchell, left, walks with his wife Spc. Eunjee Mitchell during the Fort Jackson Family Day on July 31, 2019.
(Photo by Alexandra Shea)
While she knew her husband would be attending her ceremony, Staff Sgt. Mitchell was able to arrive to the installation early and surprise his wife during the Family Day dress rehearsal.
“While I was waiting behind the trees, I was trying to stay calm. I was very emotional,” said Spc. Mitchell.
She instantly recognized her husband on the parade field and knew “my recruiter is here.”
“I saw him and he was in uniform so I recognized him because he’s so tall,” she said.
Standing at six-feet, five-inches, Staff Sgt. Mitchell is not easily missed. Since immigrating to a new country and culture, Spc. Mitchell has never been separated from her husband, until attending Basic Combat Training.
“I didn’t see her until she was walking out,” said Staff Sgt. Mitchell. “She’s a tough little lady. I’m crazy proud of her.”
The couple were allowed to speak for a short time before Spc. Mitchell had to return to her daily duties. The following day they were reunited for Family Day where they were able to spend an entire day together visiting various parts of the installation and get lunch together.
After the graduation ceremony, Spc. Mitchell traveled back to her home state with her husband. Once there, Spc. Mitchell will rejoin her Reserve unit and attend Advanced Individual Training in the coming months.
When asked what her future might look like now that BCT is complete, Spc. Mitchell said she is excited to begin her new career and possibly a family. She also explained how her experience on Fort Jackson has helped her to understand her husband and brings them closer as a couple.
“The first year we were married I didn’t understand the little things like why he didn’t want to take his boots off in the house,” said Spc. Mitchell. “I understand him more now.”
Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.
Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.
The Vikings used known points
The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.
They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.
Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.
Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.
Let me sing you the song of my people…
The Polynesians used songs
The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.
The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.
With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!
The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude
Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.
Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.
Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.
In the world of combat, enemies of the U.S. don’t typically fight fair. So, as a defensive measure, we need to prepare for every possible situation that could arise — even situations that involve the use of outlawed weaponry.
Fortunately, our armed forces go through detailed training to prepare for an event in which one of the countries we occupy decides to get froggy and releases a chemical attack.
It’s no secret that such chemicals exist and to combat the threat, allied forces have the technology readily available.
Not all released chemicals are absorbed into the human body via inhalation. For some dangerous substances, any contact with the body can be deadly. So, the military has unique suits and a system called “Mission Oriented Protective Posture” to define the level of protection required by each circumstance.
The MOPP system technically has five different levels. Level 0 means the area appears to zero threat, but troops must still keep those specialized suites handy. This level rises as dangers become greater so that troops know to don additional gear for protection.
You might ask yourself, what if the troop works as a tanker and they cant put on their MOPP gear fast enough due to a lack of space?
That’s a great question and we’re glad we asked.
Moden day tanks and light armored vehicles are built to protect the troops inside, even in the event that the enemy decides to pass gas. Get it? How funny are we, right?
The cleverly constructed vehicles are fitted to have all the hatches seal airtight when closed. Those light armored reconnaissance vehicles are well constructed that they can maneuver through harsh terrain during attacks like it’s no big deal.
“Breaking Bad” is getting a film sequel six years after the popular AMC show ended.
The award-winning drama series premiered in January 2008 and lasted for five seasons. The series centered on Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher who turned to crystal meth-making to financially support his family after being diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. With a drug dealer/maker and former student named Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul), Walter became a key drug lord known as Heisenberg.
“Breaking Bad” ended in September 2013 and it was recently revealed that the hit series will have a film sequel titled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” written and directed by show creator Vince Gilligan.
Though more information will be revealed, here’s everything we know about the upcoming “Breaking Bad” movie so far.
Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman on the “Breaking Bad” series finale.
Aaron Paul will reprise his Emmy-winning role
Last time fans saw Jesse, he was held hostage by white supremacists who were forcing him to cook in a compound. With help from Walter, Jesse was able to escape and drive off in his black Chevrolet El Camino, which may be the inspiration for the sequel’s title.
Based on the movie’s synopsis, it’ll pick up right after the events of the series finale, with Jesse’s whereabouts still unclear.
“In the wake of his dramatic escape from captivity, Jesse must come to terms with his past in order to forge some kind of future,” the description reads.
Charles Baker as Skinny Pete in “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.”
At least one other character from the original series is confirmed to return
Charles Baker will reprise his role as Skinny Pete, one of Jesse’s friends. In the teaser trailer, Skinny Pete is seen being questioned by authorities in regards to Jesse.
“I don’t know what to tell you, I only said like, 500 times already … I have no idea where he is,” he says in the trailer. “Don’t know where he’s headed either. North, south, east, west, Mexico, the moon — I don’t have a clue. But yo, even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
When the New York Times asked Paul about the possibility of familiar faces showing up, the actor played coy.
“All I can say, I think people will be really happy with what they see,” he said.
Aaron Paul won three Emmys for “Breaking Bad.”
The movie will probably be an emotional roller coaster
After the trailer was released, Paul took to Twitter and reshared a powerful scene from the seventh episode of season three, writing: “Here’s a moment from ‘Breaking Bad’ to slowly prepare you all for what’s to come.”
The scene shows Jesse lying in a hospital bed after getting beat up by Hank. As Walter visits Jesse and offers him an opportunity to be his assistant for id=”listicle-2640184508″.5 million, Jesse swiftly turns it down because he’s frustrated by how the teacher-turned-drug-dealer has ruined his life.
“I want nothing to do with you,” Jesse says. “Ever since I met you, everything I ever cared about is gone, ruined, turned to s—, dead. Ever since I hooked up with the great Heisenberg. I have never been more alone. I have nothing! No one. Alright? And it’s all gone! Get it? No, why would you even care? As long as you get what you want, right?”
Paul also told NYT that he “couldn’t speak for a good 30, 60 seconds after reading the script for “El Camino.”
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston on “Breaking Bad.”
It will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019
People in need of a refresher on the series can watch all five seasons on Netflix. According to the NYT, the film will also air on AMC at a later date.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.
Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.
Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.
“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”
Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.
“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.
Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”
He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)
“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.
With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.
“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.
Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.
“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”
Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.
The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.
Burr wasn’t the same after that.
Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.
And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.
If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.
The Chinese military has been practicing sinking enemy vessels with anti-ship naval missiles in the South China Sea, CNBC reported July 1, 2019, citing US officials.
The Chinese military reportedly began testing these weapons over the weekend, as a week-long drill kicked off in the disputed waterway. CNBC reports that Chinese forces test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which could include systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.
The testing of ASBMs would be an important first for the South China Sea and a significant step forward as China seeks to strengthen its anti-access, area-denial capabilities, although some expert observers suspect China may have been testing anti-ship cruise missiles.
For ballistic-missile tests, Chinese authorities typically issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) identifying “temporary danger areas,” Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, explained. Such a NOTAM was issued for the period between June 30 and July 1, 2019, marking off two locations in the South China Sea.
The DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Beijing previously moved land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the YJ-62 and YJ-12B, to Chinese-occupied territories in the region, a move the US condemned.
“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft,” Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, explained last year. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”
Range limits require ASCMs be on islands in the South China Sea in order to reach surrounding waterways. Longer-range ASBMs could be fired from the Chinese mainland, allowing for more robust defenses around the batteries.
China argues that relevant deployments are a necessary response to aggressive US behavior.
China’s latest testing comes on the heels of joint drills in the South China Sea involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 1, which includes the Izumo multi-purpose destroyer that is slated to become Japan’s first carrier in decades.
The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan operates with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, June 11, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo)
US officials told CNBC that while the US Navy has ships in the South China Sea, the missile testing did not endanger any US ship. The testing was, however, characterized as “concerning.”
Locked in competition with great power rivals, the US is looking more closely at the development of anti-ship capabilities as it prepares to counter near-peer threats, such as the massive Chinese navy.
Both the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, are looking at long-range artillery and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries to control the maritime space from land.
“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels,” Mark Esper, the former secretary of the Army who is now acting secretary of defense, explained earlier this year.
“We can, from a fixed location, on an island or some other place, engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets,” Esper said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After a handful of quiet days in President Donald Trump’s trade war, it looks as if a further escalation may be on its way following reports that another round of tariffs on China could be announced imminently and a statement from the Chinese government saying it is readying a retaliation.
According to Bloomberg, the Trump administration is considering levying tariffs of 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods shipped to the US, a move that would inevitably deepen tensions between the two nations. Trump so far has publicly threatened 10% tariffs on this tranche of imports.
Citing three sources familiar with the plans, Bloomberg said the US would raise its threat to 25% tariffs as a means of getting the Chinese government to enter into negotiations to de-escalate the conflict, which has seen tit-for-tat tariff impositions largely on industrial goods.
The increased tariff proposals could be announced in a Federal Register notice as early as Aug. 1, 2018, one of Bloomberg’s sources said.
The US has already placed 25% tariffs on about billion worth of Chinese goods, and it has just finished consulting on another set to be imposed on goods worth billion. It earlier imposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from China and other countries.
White-hot steel pouring out of an electric arc furnace.
“I’m not doing this for politics — I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” he told CNBC during the interview in which he made that threat. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”
The latest reports of Trump’s willingness to increase tariffs on China were met with anger in Beijing, with a government representative accusing the US of attempting to “blackmail” China. The government also made clear that it was willing to hit back at any additional tariffs.
“US pressure and blackmail won’t have an effect,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, according to Reuters. “If the United States takes further escalatory steps, China will inevitably take countermeasures and we will resolutely protect our legitimate rights.”
During a meeting in Washington, DC, on July 25, 2018, Trump and the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to the beginnings of a deal meant to lower tensions between the two parties.
In the meeting, the EU agreed to import more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas. The two sides committed to work to lower industrial tariffs and adjust regulations to allow US medical devices to be traded more easily in European markets.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force has confirmed that an American pilot from the California Air National Guard was killed during a familiarization flight with a Ukrainian pilot in a Su-27UB fighter aircraft on October 16 during the Clear Skies 2018 exercise, an event orchestrated to allow Ukraine to better incorporate its forces with eight NATO militaries.
The U.S. service member involved in the crash was a member of the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, Fresno, California. The Airman was taking part in a single-aircraft familiarization flight with a Ukrainian counterpart. No other aircraft were involved in the incident. The identity of the service member is being withheld for 24 hours pending next of kin notification.
The Ukrainian pilot was also killed in the crash.
“This is a sad day for the United States and Ukraine,” Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison, California ANG commander and Clear Skies exercise director, said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends, and fellow Airmen of both the U.S. Airman and Ukrainian aviator who were killed in the incident.”
A Su-27B aircraft flies during Open Skies 2018 in Ukraine.
(U.S. Air National Guard)
The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. A statement from the Ukrainian General Staff gave the first indication of what had occurred.
“We regret to inform that, according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” it said.
The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.
The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.
Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.
What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.
The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.
While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.
Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”
However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”
Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.
The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way?
With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.
This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.
Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.
Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.
This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”
In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”
While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.