It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll be the victim of a cyberattack, but you can drastically reduce the odds of one in a few simple steps.
The vast majority of people whose accounts are hacked don’t take basic precautions to protect them, making them “low-hanging fruit,” according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at cybersecurity firm SecurityScorecard.
“If you’re not thinking about these things, you have a nice car and you’re leaving it unlocked in a bad neighborhood. And the internet is the worst neighborhood there is, in my opinion,” Heid told Business Insider.
Follow these expert-recommended steps to avoid the pitfalls that can expose your accounts and sensitive information to hackers.
(Photo by Ilya Pavlov)
1. Change your passwords frequently.
According to Heid, hackers accumulate millions of login credentials and passwords in online databases garnered from previous data breaches. Even with just one set of login credentials, hackers commonly try to log into other sites using the same email and password, assuming that users will have the same password across platforms. Using different passwords from site to site will thwart this strategy.
(Photo by Courtney Clayton)
2. Don’t use the same security questions across different sites.
Following the same principle, if one site you use is compromised in a data breach, hackers might gain access to the security question and answer you set up in order to reset your password. If you use the same question across sites, it’s incredibly easy for hackers to subsequently reset your password on every one of your accounts.
3. Use bogus information for security questions to throw hackers off.
Password-reset questions typically ask for personal information like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. Rather than filling this out truthfully, use false information or an inside joke that hackers wouldn’t be able to guess. This tactic may seem counterintuitive, but can be effective, according to Heid.
“I always recommend using a password manager solution like Keypass or something like that to handle all the different passwords,” Heid said.
Password managers can generate long, difficult-to-guess passwords and automatically save them across websites, making it easy to keep your passwords diverse and hard to crack.
5. Don’t leave a public trail of personal information via social media.
Be mindful of information that hackers could glean from your public social media accounts — especially if you’re using that information for a password reset question.
“Pets’ names, kids birthdays, spots you went to for your honeymoon, all of those are common password reset answers that can be obtained from social media. Even stuff like the street you grew up on, that can be found in public records,” Heid said.
Please, please, please. Don’t ask this question. We are trying very hard to live in la la land. Right now that date is spoiling everything and haunting our every thought. Do you go to buy milk at the grocery store and cry when you happen to see THAT date on it? No? We do. We know you mean well, but instead of reminding us of impending doom….distract us. Oh, and don’t ask when he’s coming home either.
Uh….we don’t have a choice. We are the lucky ones that fell head over heels in love with a man that happened to be in the military. It’s not something we chose, but someONE. If you really love someone, you’ll make whatever sacrifice necessary. And by the way…it’s not ALL bad! I truly love this life. Have you ever had a homecoming? You’ll never experience what I feel is the most amazing event EVER. I do it because I love him; I do it because I love military life.
Just stop. Have you met a military spouse? We don’t ask for help. You don’t survive this life by being weak – we do it all ourselves. We fall into bed at the end of a very long day wondering how we’re going to do it again tomorrow and the next day for the next…how many days do we have left? In order to help us out, please be pushy. Try mowing the lawn without asking. I will never forget when I was cleaning the house one day only to look out the window and see my neighbor mowing the front lawn. He GOT it. And of course I cried. Someone noticed and didn’t make me ask for it. Yeah, maybe you don’t want to just show up with dinner because you don’t know our plans for that night…so instead pop a gift card to Panera in the mail. Or bring a dinner you prepared and froze to be used when we’re having that day. Tell her you feel the need to hang with the kids for a few hours at the park – we’ll know you are lying. But we’ll pretend you’re not. The point is, just do it. TELL us what you are doing. If you give us the opportunity to say no, we will.
5. How do you do it all?
Through God’s unending grace. Grace has become something I’ve been clinging to over the last several months. I always thought of grace as in forgiveness. To me they were simple synonyms. But man, God’s grace is so much more than that. It’s not just forgiveness for my screw-ups, it’s allowing me to screw up in the first place. See, I’m no longer afraid to fail. I WILL fail. It is something I have only now learned – I am not superwoman though non-military members will tell you so. I think that gets in your head after a while. We constantly worry that to everyone else we at least look like we have it altogether and I’m sure most of us take pride in that. But we forget that it’s okay to be a broken mess sometimes. We simply can’t be perfect. Once we begin to accept that, so much stress just seems to dissipate. Our life is stressful enough, don’t carry the baggage of being superwoman on top of it.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.
The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.
Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.
The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.
The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.
There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.
Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.
Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.
Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.
The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.
Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .
As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”
Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)
But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”
Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .
One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.
In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Competing in his first Army Ten-Miler against 35,000 registered runners didn’t faze Spc. Frankline Tonui. He and World Class Athlete Program teammate, Sgt. Evans Kirwa, led the pack for most of the race on a warm October 2018 Sunday morning.
Tonui actually trailed just behind Kirwa for much of the run, but as the pair reached the final stretch, he made a push and confidently raised his left hand in victory as he crossed the finish line. Tonui beat Kirwa by mere tenths of a second to finish at 50 minutes, 23 seconds.
“Always you have to run smart,” said Tonui, a 25-year-old 91D tactical power generation specialist from Fort Carson, Colorado, “because my teammates are all the best, so I was waiting for them to wear out. So the last 100 meters I kicked and was able to win.”
Tonui, a former Division I Track and Field runner for the University of Arkansas, placed second nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2016. He faced a different type of challenge though in the Army Ten-Miler, which features a winding course that begins at the Pentagon and moves along the streets of Washington, D.C.
Spc. Susan Tanui crosses the finish line to become the first-place female finisher for the second straight year in the Army Ten-Miler, Oct. 7, 2018. Tanui finished 56:33, 17 seconds better than her 2017 time.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
“I just thought he was ready to run a really good race,” said All-Army team coach Col. Liam Collins. “He’s just always been a tough competitor, good hard worker and he just knows how to put it up on race day.”
Kirwa humbly conceded victory to his WCAP teammate but feels confident he has made strides toward both runners’ ultimate goal: qualifying for the 2020 Olympics at next year’s World Trials. Kirwa made a significant leap from his 2017 finish of eighth place, when he admittedly struggled with the wet and muggy conditions in 2017.
In 2018 Kirwa was in front for the majority of the race before Tonui’s final kick.
“I had led probably 90 percent of the race,” Kirwa said. “I knew that somebody was going to kick cause I hadn’t seen him take the lead. We kicked with about 40 yards to go. He came ahead of me and I just had another gear and he had another gear.”
Kirwa finished nearly a minute better than his 2017’s 50 minutes 13 seconds. The native of Eldoret, Kenya, has his eye on larger goals though: returning to his peak running form in college. A 12-time NAIA All-American, Kirwa gave up running after enlisting in the Army in 2014. For four years, the sergeant focused on his military career as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic. He stayed in shape by playing recreational soccer at Fort Carson, Colorado. Then he reconnected with old friends who happened to be WCAP athletes.
A wave of runners begins the annual Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
He got the itch to run again. And shortly after, he joined the WCAP program.
“These are the guys I ran against in college — day in, day out,” Kirwa said. “So when I came back, they motivated me.”
Kirwa next plans to compete at the USA Track and Field National Club Cross Country Championships Dec. 8, 2018, in Spokane, Washington.
Spc. Susan Tanui ran so far ahead of the other female leaders on Oct. 7, 2018, that she found motivation by pacing herself with male runners. She finished with a personal-best 56:33 — 17 seconds, better than her 2017 finish and 44 seconds ahead of the second-place female finisher, Julia Roman-Duval, of Columbia, Maryland.
Tanui placed first among female runners for the second straight year.
“It’s like running on a treadmill — it hooks you in a starting pace,” said Tanui, a 31-year old 68E dental specialist. “And that helps keep you moving. Some males would pass me, but at least I would find a pace that I am consistent with.”
Tanui, competing in her fourth Army Ten-Miler, has consistently improved in each race after finishing second in 2016. But she said she did not see the biggest jump until she joined the WCAP program 18 months ago. The Kenyan native hopes to qualify for her first Olympic games in 2020.
Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University, gets a hug from family members including her father, Gen. Robert Brown (right), U.S. Army Pacific commander. Brown-Calway competed in the Army Ten-Miler for the tenth time, finishing third among female runners.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
“She’s made miraculous progress in the program,” Collins said.
The race has served as a reunion of sorts for Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University in Washington. She completed her 10th Army Ten-Miler, finishing third overall among female runners. She said the race has reunited her with former cadets she trained while serving as former coach of the West Point marathon team. One of her former students, Cadet Third Class Chase Hogeboom, managed to finish ahead of her.
“I’m really proud of him,” Brown-Calway said. “He wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to West Point and I showed him around. I got to coach him on the team and it’s been neat to see him grow.”
Brown-Calway estimates as many as 50 of her former cadets competed on Oct. 7, 2018.
In 2018, Brown-Calway’s husband, Maj. Chris Calway, also competed in the race, as well as her brother-in-law, Capt. Matthew Buchanan, a Downing scholar at Duke University. And her father, Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commander, cheered her on.
The Army Ten-Miler has grown into the third-largest 10-mile race in the world, featuring 650 running teams and both civilian and military competitors.
“I’ve gotten to see the evolution of the course,” Brown-Calway said. “The course has changed so much. I think this was the best year. The extra two long miles going over the Key Bridge instead of the Memorial Bridge was nice. I thought the whole route was fantastic this year.”
A runner crosses the finish line during the 2018 Army Ten-Miler Oct. 7 in Washington, D.C.
(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)
As expected, the WCAP athletes and All-Army team dominated the field on Oct. 7, 2018.
The third-place overall finisher, Spc. Girma Mecheso, had just recently finished Initial Entry Training. The squad had to shuffle its lineup after three competitors were unable to compete in Washington due to injuries.
“What they wanted to do was come out here and run as a team, stay grouped together as long as possible,” said Collins, who also competed in the race. “And it really just came down to the end — who had the better kick and who had the guts to put it to the finish line first. We had a pack up front running together with a group of three for a while and there was a second pack running together, a group of four.”
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.
Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.
Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.
This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.
Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.
That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.
He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.
Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.
Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.
Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.
Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.
And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)
So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.
While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.
Russia’s new Star Wars-like combat suit is apparently getting a nuclear-resistant watch, according to Newsweek, citing Rostec, the Russian defense contractor building the suit.
The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
In total, the suit comes with 59 items, Tass said, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.
The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, previously told MailOnline.
Now it’s apparently being fitted with a watch that “retains its properties upon the impact of radiation and electromagnetic impulses, for example, upon a nuclear blast,” according to Rostec’s chief designer of the suit, Oleg Faustov.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea, according to The New York Times.
The third-generation Ratnik suit will supposedly be ready for service in 2022, according to Russian Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov.
Russia even unveiled a video of the suit in late June, but it only showed a static display of the suit, so it’s unknown if it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.
Russia is also not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.
The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018. France is working on one too, the Integrated Infantryman Equipment and Communications system, or FELIN.
Nevertheless, many problems still exist with these suits, such as bulky batteries that power the exoskeletons, Tack said.
And while Salyukov recently said that they’ve been able to reduce the Ratnik-3’s weight by 30%, Russia is known to make wild claims about its military equipment that it doesn’t back up.
Russia is disturbing the peace, and NATO countries must combat its hybrid strategy, the alliance’s supreme allied commander for Europe said on Sept. 29, 2018.
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also commands U.S. European Command, spoke to reporters covering the NATO Military Committee meeting, alongside Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Scaparrotti said Russia already is a competitor that operates in domains “particularly below the level of war,” the general said, but in an aggressive way, noting that the Russians use cyber activity, social media, disinformation campaigns, and troop exercises to threaten and bully other countries. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its actions Eastern Ukraine show their determination to continue to intimidate neighboring countries.
Undermining Western values, governments
“[They are] operating in many countries of Europe in that way, with basically the common theme of undermining Western values and the credibility of Western governments, in my view,” Scaparrotti said.
Short of conflict, Russia sends money to organizations in Europe at both ends of the ideological spectrum, the general said. “Really, their view is — I call it a destabilization campaign. That’s their strategy,” he added. “If they can destabilize these governments, if they can create enough questions, then that is to their benefit.”
The Russians’ doctrine looks to achieve their ends without conflict, Scaparrotti said. “They have the idea that ‘I don’t have to put a soldier there or fire a shot, but if I can undermine the government, then I’ve achieved my ends,'” he explained. “That is particularly true of the countries that are in the Eastern part of the alliance that are on their border.”
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
The Soviet Union subjugated those countries after World War II, and Russia sees those countries as areas where it should still have privileged influence, he said. “They want to keep those governments in the position that they could influence them, and this is a tactic for doing that.”
The environment surrounding it has changed, he noted. “They were ahead of us in terms of changing their posture with respect to NATO,” he said, and the Russians have maintained a purposeful military modernization program that they have maintained even as their economy strains.
“It took us some time in NATO to recognize that [Russia] is not our friend, not our partner right now, and we have to pay attention to what’s happening in our environment and how they are acting,” he said. “Of course 2014 was a real wake-up. Russia violated international law and norms, which I will tell you they continue to do in other ways.”
Scaparrotti said he has no doubt that Russia would repeat its actions in Crimea and Ukraine “if they saw the opportunity and they thought the benefits exceeded the costs.”
This strategy is called a hybrid war, he said, and NATO is coming to grips with the concept. “One of the things about hybrid war is defining it. What is it?” he added. “It’s a lot of things, and most of it is not in the military realm.”
Planners need to determine what the military can do as part of a counter-strategy and what other agencies, branches efforts can contribute, he said. “And then [you must decide] how should you work with them, because we can’t just work on this on our own,” he said. “This really does talk about the whole-of-government approach and bringing others into it and deciding what needs to be done.”
In each NATO nation that approach has got to be different, Scaparrotti said, because the nations themselves have different strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. They also must factor in what Russia’s interest or activity is.
“We are working in this realm with military capacity as well,” the general said. “We have special operations forces, and this is their business. They understand it. To the extent that they can identify hybrid activity, they can help our nations build their ability to identify and counter it.”
A Meeting of the NATO Foreign Minsiters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, 2018.
NATO can, for example, reinforce each nation’s capacity for understanding disinformation and how to counter it, he said, noting that these issues are among the Military Committee meeting’s topics..
The bottom line is that Russian leaders need to understand that a conflict with NATO is not what they want, Scaparrotti said. “We are 29 nations. We’re strong. I am confident of our ability to secure the sovereignty of our nations in NATO,” he said.
Readiness critical to deterrence
NATO readiness is crucial to the deterrent success of the alliance, and Scaparrotti now has the tools to work on this aspect. Readiness in NATO means the commander gets a specific capability, and that capability is available on a timeline that’s useful given the environment, he explained.
“Then, of course, [readiness] is a mindset, which is perhaps the most important thing that has changed,” he said. “It is changing now.”
The NATO summit held in Brussels in July 2018 gave Scaparrotti the authority and directive to deal with alliance readiness.
“We are back to establishing force where I, as the commander, now have the authority to require readiness of units on a specific timeline and the ability to check them to ensure they can actually do it,” he said. “This all comes together with our ability to move at speed to meet the environment to do what we need to do.”
Roughly four years ago, ISIS shocked the world when it took over a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate in the process.
Fast forward to 2018 and the terrorist group is a shadow of what it was even a year ago. It has lost the vast majority of the territory it previously held and the number of fighters it counted among its ranks has dwindled exponentially to below 3,000.
Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the Middle East, and a new report from the Soufan Center warns it’s attempting to make a comeback by resorting to a tactic it employed back in 2013 when it was still known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security personnel.
“To get back to its heyday of 2014, the Islamic State first needs to get back to 2013, a year in which the terrorist group concluded one very successful campaign to free thousands of its detained members from Iraqi jails and started another campaign to assassinate and intimidate Iraqi security personnel, particularly local police officers,” the report stated.
In late June 2018, Iraq executed 12 ISIS members, which the Soufan Center says was in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.
‘A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past’
With fewer numbers, ISIS will be less inclined to focus on regaining territory and more likely to ramp up attacks on Iraqi police to sow the same brand of chaos it did back in 2013, according to the Soufan Center.
A masked man in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014.
“A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past,” the report noted.”Targeted attacks on police and government officials have risen in several provinces as the group has stopped its military collapse and refocused on what is possible for the group now.”
The report added, “Assassinations require few people and are perfectly suited as a force multiplier for a group that has seen its forces decimated.”
‘The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed’
Peter Mandaville, a professor of international affairs at George Mason University who previously served as a top adviser to the State Department on ISIS, backed up the Soufan Center report.
“I think it would be difficult for ISIS to retake significant territory given the ongoing presence and vigilance of [US-led] coalition forces,” Mandaville told Business Insider, adding, “They certainly have the capacity to engage in an extended insurgency campaign using the kinds of tactics highlighted in the Soufan Center report.”
Mandaville said the situation on the ground in Iraq — that led to the rise of ISIS in the first place — has not changed significantly even though ISIS has more or less been defeated militarily.
“The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed, with high levels of political polarization,” Mandaville said. “Until the central government succeeds in advancing key political and security reforms, many areas of Iraq will continue to provide a permissive environment for low intensity ISIS operations.”
David Sterman of the New America Foundation, an expert on terrorism and violent extremism, expressed similar sentiments.
David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security Program; Co-Author, All Jihad is Local, Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
Sterman told Business Insider that the threat of ISIS returning to the strategy of breeding chaos on the local level by targeting Iraq security personal is “very serious.”
“ISIS continues to show capability to conduct attacks in liberated areas, an issue seen also during the surge,” Sterman added. “Bombings in Baghdad in January 2018 illustrate this as well as the assassinations and smaller attacks discussed” in the Soufan Center report.
In short, ISIS is still in a position to create havoc, albeit in a more limited capacity, in an already troubled country that really hasn’t even begun to recover from years of conflict.
ISIS continues to operate underground across the world
From a broader standpoint, this does not necessarily mean ISIS poses a significant threat to the US.
“Even at its height, ISIS did not demonstrate a capability to direct a strike on the US homeland (as opposed to Europe),” Sterman said. “So the threat [in the US] predominantly remains homegrown and inspired. Of course that doesn’t mean the US should take its eye off of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s bursting onto the global scene is proof of that.”
Moreover, ISIS is also turning to Bitcoin and encrypted communications as a means of rallying its followers worldwide.
“If you look across the globe, the cohesive nature of the enterprise for ISIS has been maintained,” Russell Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told The New York Times. “The message continues to resonate with way too many people.”
The Trump administration says there’s ‘still hard fighting ahead’ against ISIS
Speaking with reporters in late June 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the success the US-led coalition has had against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but added that “there’s still hard fighting ahead.”
“Bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead,” Mattis said. “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”
Meanwhile, US troops stationed near the Iraq-Syria border have been hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery in recent weeks.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the federal agency responsible for investigating environmental threats, will begin assessing residents near eight active and former military bases for exposure to chemicals found in firefighting foam and other products.
The CDC, along with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), will check for exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS compounds, which have been linked to infertility, immune disorders, developmental delays in children and some cancers.
The compounds are found in nonstick pots and pans; water-repellent and stain-resistant fabrics; and products that repel grease, water and oil. But they are also found, concentrated, in the foam used on military bases and at airports for fighting aviation fires.
A C-130H Hercules drops a line of fire retardant.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)
Research is ongoing into the public health consequences of PFAS compounds, but the Defense Department has identified 401 active and former bases where they are known to have been released into the environment.
It also found 564 public or private drinking water systems off installations that tested above the EPA’s accepted limits.
The DoD is currently working to determine whether area residents were exposed and, if so, to switch to a clean water source and initiate cleanup. The CDC and ATSDR, meanwhile, are studying the extent of exposure and plan to launch studies to understand the relationship between PFAS compounds and health conditions.
The eight communities the agencies will examine this year are: Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware; Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York; Reese Technology Center, Texas; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; and Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base, West Virginia.
The investigations follow exposure assessments conducted in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania, near the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, and the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, N.Y.
Firefighters train during an exercise at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.
(DoD photo by Senior Airman Christopher Muncy)
CDC officials said the primary goal of the research is to “provide information to communities about levels of the contaminants in their bodies.” This information will help the communities understand the extent of exposure, they added.
“The lessons learned can also be applied to communities facing similar PFAS drinking water exposures. This will serve as a foundation for future studies evaluating the impact of PFAS exposure on human health,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and ATSDR.
In addition to the contamination of some base drinking water supply systems, DoD investigations found that the groundwater at some facilities contained PFAS compounds.
According to the DoD, as of August 2017, nine Army bases, 40 Navy and Marine Corps bases, 39 Air Force bases and two Defense Logistics Agency sites had groundwater levels of PFAS higher than EPA limits. The DoD tested a total of 2,668 groundwater wells for contamination, finding more than 60 percent above the EPA’s accepted limit.
According to the CDC, the community assessments will include randomly selecting residents to provide blood and urine samples to check PFAS levels. The exposure assessments will use statistically based sampling.
In May 2018, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that supports research and education on public health concerns related to environmental exposures, released an estimate that as many as 110 million Americans may have PFAS compounds in their drinking water.
A 2018 ATSDR draft toxicology report has associated PFAS compounds with ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and high blood pressure in pregnant women. In addition, the most commonly used PFAS compounds have been linked to testicular and kidney cancer.
The Air Force in 2018 announced that it had completely transitioned its firefighting services to use foam considered safer to the environment than the original aqueous firefighting foam.
The Army also plans to replace its stockpiles and to incinerate the PFAS-containing foams.
In 2016, the Navy announced a policy to stop releasing foam at its shore facilities except in emergencies and had a plan to dispose of its excess foam. It also announced plans to dispose and replace all shore systems and fire trucks that use the PFAS-containing foam.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As China and the US continue to spar over trade and the South China Sea, a Chinese admiral made a bold threat to eliminate one of the US’s primary military advantages, its aircraft carriers — a gaping vulnerability that has concerned US officials as China’s military power grows.
“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Rear Adm. Lou Yuan reportedly said in a speech at the 2018 Military Industry List summit on Dec. 20, 2018, adding that sinking one carrier could kill 5,000 US service members.
“We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said.
Lou, the deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, has academic military rank and does not command troops, but he has gained attention for his hawkish views on the US, as have other officials who’ve called on Beijing to take a more confrontational approach.
Lou said current US-China tensions were “definitely not simply friction over economics and trade” but rather over a “prime strategic issue,” according to Australia’s News.com.au, which cited Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
The US has “five cornerstones” that can be exploited, he said: its military, its money, its talent, its voting system, and its fear of adversaries.
China should “use its strength to attack the enemy’s shortcomings,” he said, according to News.com.au, continuing: “Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”
Lou said China’s new anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were able to hit US carriers despite the “bubble” of defensive measures surrounding them. The US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, aircraft, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Not indestructible but certainly defensible
China has clashed with its neighbors over its expansive claims in the East and South China seas.
The US has undertaken freedom-of-navigation exercises in the area to assert the right under international law to operate there — moves that have provoked close encounters with Chinese ships.
Reducing or blocking the US’s ability to operate in those areas is a key part of China’s efforts to shift the regional balance of power in its favor by undermining confidence in US assurances about security to its partners. (Russia has pursued similar efforts.)
Beijing’s development of ballistic missiles — like the DF-21, which can reach Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, and the longer-range DF-26, which can reach most US bases in the Pacific — along with air-defense systems and a more active navy have led to discussions about what the US Navy needs to do to operate in a contested environment, where even its all-powerful aircraft carriers could be vulnerable to attack.
The amphibious assault ship Boxer firing a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile-firing exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2013.
(US Navy photo by Kenan O’Connor)
In analyses by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “we determined that if the Navy pursues a lot of the air-defense capabilities that they’ve been talking about, and some of which have been in development or fielded, they should be able to dramatically improve the carrier strike group’s air-defense capacity,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at CSBA who previously worked on Navy strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations, said in December 2018 during a presentation at the Heritage Foundation.
At present, Clark said, carrier strike groups operating about 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese coast using air-defenses assets like interceptor missiles, electromagnetic jamming, directed-energy weapons, and patrol aircraft could expect to hit about 450 incoming weapons, fewer than the at least 600 weapons the CSBA estimated China could fire to that distance.
“So if you shift instead to what the Navy’s talking about doing with its air-defense capacity by shifting to shorter-range interceptors like the [Evolved Sea Sparrow missile] instead of the SM-2 in terms of loadout, adopting directed-energy weapons, using the hypervelocity projectile … you could increase the air-defense capacity of your [carrier strike group] to the point where now you can deal with maybe 800 weapons or so in a particular salvo,” Clark said.
The USS Ronald Reagan conducting a live-fire exercise of its Phalanx Close-in Weapons System in the Philippine Sea in 2016.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke)
These estimates make numerous assumptions about the effectiveness of Navy air defenses and about how China deploys its weaponry. Moreover, the above scenarios end with the carrier strike group’s interceptor weapons expended.
To compensate for that and allow carriers to operate longer in contested areas, the Navy could use electromagnetic warfare to make enemy targeting harder or by attacking enemy bombers and missile launchers before they can fire, according to the CSBA report.
It wouldn’t be enough to eliminate China’s coastal missile batteries. With China’s and Russia’s improving ability to fire sub-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, changes are needed to the carrier air wing’s composition and operations to work at longer ranges and in contested environments, the report notes.
“There is approach that could yield a carrier strike group that is, if not indestructible, but certainly defensible in an area where it could be relevant to a warfight with a country like China,” Clark said at the Heritage Foundation. “This is the approach that the Navy’s moving down the track toward.”
Sailors on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Carl Vinson as it departed Naval Air Station North Island for a deployment in the western Pacific.
(US Navy photo)
‘Americans have gone soft’
Lou is in the hawkish wing of the Chinese foreign-policy commentariat, but his remarks invoked what appears to be an increasingly common perception of the US in Chinese thinking: The US is powerful but lacks resolve to fight.
“A far larger number of Chinese believe it than I think is healthy,” Brad Glosserman, a China expert and visiting professor at Tokyo’s Tama University, told Stars and Stripes in January 2019 in regard to Lou’s comments.
Many Chinese believe “Americans have gone soft” and “no longer have an appetite for sacrifice and at the first sign of genuine trouble they will cut and run,” Glosserman said.
Many in the US would dispute that notion. But this was part of the discussion of the aircraft carrier’s future in American power at the Heritage Foundation event on Dec. 11, 2018.
There is a “heightened national aversion to risk,” especially when comes aircraft carriers, according to Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain who now serves as vice president at the consultant Telemus Group.
Carriers have grown in cost and become regarded as a symbol of “national prestige,” Hendrix said at the Heritage Foundation event. He added that in light of the importance with which carriers have been imbued, political leaders may be averse to sending them into battle.
“There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential for conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers,” Hendrix said. “We need to move these assets back into the realm of being weapons and not being perceived as mystical unicorns.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Expensive brass gongs and bells are being stolen from navigational buoys off the coast of Maine, and the Coast Guard is asking for help to track down whoever is pilfering them.
The sounding devices are used by ships and sailors to navigate, especially in low-visibility conditions. The sounding devices are attached to buoys and “play a vital role in the safe passage of ships and mariners,” the Coast Guard said in a release.
Six buoys have been hit over the past six months, according to Lt. Chellsey Phillips, spokeswoman for the South Portland Coast Guard Station.
Anyone with information that leads to a conviction could get up to half the value of the fine imposed, the Coast Guard said.
This is not the first time the Coast Guard has had to address the public about its buoys in New England.
In April 2017, the Coast Guard in Rhode Island asked people to stop shooting at buoys there. At the time, one Coast Guard crew found a buoy that had been peppered with 20 bullet holes and sunk, creating a navigation hazard.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.