Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.
“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.
“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”
Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.
It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.
Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.
The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.
The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.
“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”
The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.
More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.
Follow the money
Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.
As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.
So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.
Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.
Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.
“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”
On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.
The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.
The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.
Banks are vulnerable
In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.
They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.
They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.
The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.
The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.
Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.
But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.
The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.
“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”
That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.
They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.
Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?
Waiting until a catastrophe
News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.
Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.
How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.
The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.
“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.
While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.
In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.
Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.
Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.
“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”
But are the deterrents strong enough?
Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.
For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.
But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.
“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”
In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”
Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.
“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”
If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.
Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.
“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”
New York leading the way
The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.
This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.
“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.
In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.
In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.
Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.
Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.
Everyone knows that the Roosevelt family held a political dynasty for decades; fielding two presidents of the United States and a first lady in 50 years is a pretty impressive record, and that’s without mentioning all the other jobs like assistant secretary of the Navy (Theodore and Franklin) and Governor of the State of New York (Franklin).
But the Roosevelts actually have a strong claim to a military dynasty as well with three Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, 11 Silver Stars, and a slew of other awards from the U.S., France, and Britain, all in 100 years.
So, you know, awkward Christmases for the cousin who went into finance.
The Roosevelt military legacy dates back to the Revolutionary War when Henry Rutgers (a descendant of Elsie Roosevelt) and Nicholas Roosevelt served on the American side. But it really got steaming in the Civil War when two of Theodore Roosevelt’s uncles served the Confederate Navy.
While the Roosevelt family was based in New York, Theodore’s father had married Martha Bulloch, a Souther belle whose family had deep ties to what would become the Confederacy. When the war broke out, two of her brothers volunteered for service.
James and Irvine Bulloch became naval officers, and both brothers were involved in launching the CSS Alabama, one of the most feared Confederate commerce raiders in the war. James, by that point assigned to secretly buying ships for the Southern Navy from English shipyards, commissioned the ship and supervised its construction.
But the Union State Department was working feverishly to get the future Confederate ships in England seized, so Irvine led a “sea trial” of the Alabama before stealing away with it to the Azores to receive its crew and weapons. Irvine would serve on the vessel for most of the war as a midshipman and is credited with firing the Alabama’s last shot before it was sunk at Cherbourg, France, in battle against the USS Kearsarge.
When the Lusitania was sunk and America finally entered World War I, Theodore Jr., a former president by that point, was turned down for service. But three of his sons were accepted into the U.S. Army and a fourth, Kermit, volunteered for service in the British army where he was accepted and rose to captain.
Kermit was sent to the Middle East where he earned a British Military Cross for bravery after capturing Turkish soldiers in the Battle for Baghdad. Archibald received two Silver Stars and a Croix de Guerre, and Theodore received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, all awards for high valor. Theodore was gassed once and Archibald was crippled by shrapnel.
It was there that the men earned three Silver Stars. Quentin earned the first at the Battle of Kasserine Pass when he manned an artillery observation post under fire and used it to help hold back German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s attack until a Messerschmitt shot him through the back.
Theodore, a brigadier general by that point, then earned two more. His first World War II Silver Star came when he manned an observation post under attack from German dive bombers, fighter planes, and artillery. He earned his next Silver Star, his fourth overall, the next day when he led a reinforced combat team against enemy machine gun positions.
Quentin was sent to recover from his wounds but the men were reunited at D-Day when Quentin hit Omaha Beach and Theodore personally directed the 4th Infantry Divisions landings at Utah Beach, redrawing the division’s attack plans while under fire. He would later receive a Medal of Honor and recommendation for promotion to major general, but he died before he received either.
Quentin II would receive the Croix de Guerre before the war ended.
Sexual assault is a mortifying secret for far too many veterans. Although it is not often talked about, Military Sexual Trauma, or “MST” as it is often called, is a significant problem in the military. Some of this is due to hazing, dominance and other unexplained reasons. Regardless of the cause, individuals who are victims of MST can experience various mental health problems.
According to Stephanie Cojocaru, Psy.D., a psychologist in Florida, screening conducted on veterans who are treated through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics shows that “one in four women and one in 100 men report experiencing [Military Sexual Trauma] while in the military.” However, Dr. Cojocaru believes that those rates are much higher because “many service members do not report the [Military Sexual Trauma] at all.”
Although the results of the VA screening indicate that women are more likely to suffer from MST than men, Dr. Cojocaru believes that the numbers are more evenly split than they might initially appear. She bases this on a recent Department of Defense study of 21,000 service members who reported MST in the year of the study. Dr. Cojocaru explains that 52 percent of those who suffered MST were men. This means that many veterans, both male and female, have been victims of MST.
MST can affect different people in very different ways. For example, Dr. Cojocaru states that she has “seen many veterans who had been raped in the military … who go on to develop severe depression, anxiety, PTSD or substance abuse.” However, she has also “met many veterans who have been sexually assaulted in the military who went on to live seemingly normal lives, being somewhat unscathed by the event.” This means that depending on the veteran and circumstance, the outcome can vary widely. Some individuals may be impacted so severely that they have difficulty maintaining employment, in social situations or even functioning in day-to-day life.
Because this is such a problem in the military, the VA has made special regulations to make it easier for MST victims to obtain disability benefits. MST will often present as a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although normally the VA requires that veterans provide some corroborative evidence of the event, in cases of MST, the veteran need only show evidence of a change in behavior. Change in behavior can be shown by a request to transfer to another unit, decline in work performance, substance abuse, depression, panic attacks, anxiety without an otherwise discernable cause or unexplained economic or social behavioral changes.
If the veteran can show that there was a change in behavior during military service and there is a current psychiatric diagnosis due to the MST, the VA will grant a service connection. Once the VA decides that the MST is due to military service, the next step is for the VA to rate the severity of the condition. Because the symptoms of MST can vary from person to person, so do the VA’s ratings. However, often, a veteran still must appeal the VA’s initial rating of MST to eventually obtain a rating as high as is actually deserved.
MST remains an ongoing problem in the military. However, in the meantime, victims of MST should seek treatment immediately and consider applying for VA disability benefits upon discharge. According to Dr. Cojocaru, “a good rule of thumb is to seek help sooner rather than later … because it can more often than not lead to a better prognosis.”
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.
The Golden Knights are based at Fort Bragg and are international ambassadors for the Army, performing at air shows, sporting events and on the international stage where they are the world’s most highly decorated parachute team.
Lt. Col. Carlos Ramos, commander of the Golden Knights, said the team has just started its annual “show season,” meaning they will soon be traveling the nation to perform for millions.
According to officials, the Golden Knights are seen by an estimated one-third of the U.S. population each year.
But Ramos said there was something special about performing in the Golden Knight’s own backyard on Fort Bragg.
“It’s a great honor,” Ramos said. “What better crowd is there than a Fort Bragg crowd?”
The Knights took off from nearby Pope Field and jumped at roughly 2,400 feet.
It was a special treat, said Miriam Breece, principal of Irwin Intermediate.
Breece said the Golden Knights are the latest visitors to the school, after the 82nd Airborne Division Band performed earlier this week.
She said the Month of the Military Child was meant to show the students that while they have unique challenges, they are also special.
“We like to thank them,” Breece said. “We exist to support them.”
It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:
1. The “American Sniper” controversy
The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.
As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.
2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa
In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.
“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial
The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.
In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.
4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record
Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:
“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”
The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”
5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again
In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.
6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train
In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.
As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.
7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs
The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.
8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War
In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.
9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units
The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart
The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.
The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.
11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.
12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017
They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.
The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.
13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data
In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.
One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.
14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.
Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.
15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS
In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.
The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.
A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.
Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.
For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.
Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”
“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”
In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.
“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.
Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.
The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.
“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.
Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)
Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.
“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.
Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.
Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.
“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.
In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.
“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”
When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.
It wasn’t easy.
But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.
“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.
It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.
Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.
“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I feel like I have a purpose.”
For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.
So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.
And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.
“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”
In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.
“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”
Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a deployed parent, according to the “Military Children and Families” report conducted by Princeton University/Brookings (Fall 2013). This statistic got the attention of two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, who is an Air Force brat herself, and she has added her name to the Duracell company’s support of the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program.
Somewhat by chance a Duracell market research team met a Navy family in San Diego who used one of the company’s products in a heart-warming way. “We were basically in the house of this family and we asked the daughter to show off her favorite toy,” brand manager Ramon Velutini said. “We were expecting regular toys — remote control cars and all this — and they came running with this battery-powered bear.”
“We were so inspired by this story, we wanted to share it,” said brand director Jeff Jarrett. “We realized just how difficult it is for these families to stay connected during a deployment. With their story of the teddy bear, they helped us understand the impact that a battery-powered bear could have on children—a way to hear Mom or Dad on command while they’re deployed, allowing them to always be there.”
Mackenzie Nilson, 3-year-old daughter of Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Nilson and his wife Denise, stayed close to her father while he was deployed as an air traffic controller aboard a surface combatant by listening to his voice that he’d recorded into a stuffed bear before he left. The Duracell team recreated the sequence of events in a commercial produced just in time for July 4.
Watch the heart-warming commercial:
Actress Swank decided to share her support of the program because she can relate to having a military parent gone all the time; her father is a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant. The first time she saw the teddy bear ad she was immediately moved to help. “The young girl is going through a gamut of emotions,” she said. “It’s a reminder of the sacrifice of all of our troops as well as the unsung heroes — those left behind.”
Swank is proud of her father’s service and grateful that she has a sense of what the military is all about, something many Americans lack.
“In a military family everyone serves, especially the children,” she said. “It wasn’t easy for me when my father was away for many months at a time with the Air Force, but he always worked hard to stay connected with us through phone calls.”
Duracell is donating $100,000 to the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program which helps military children cope during their parent’s deployment. The program gives military children a safe, comfortable environment to explore, with their peers, the challenges of growing up in the military. The Comfort Crew for Military Kids program supports military children with the distribution of Comfort Kits, which gives military families the resources they need to tackle tough issues on the home front. In 2014, the USO distributed more than 15,000 kits .
The Russian military is massing troops at its border with Ukraine, says Ukrainian and U.S. military intelligence agencies. The buildup includes more than 300 tanks and the support troops necessary to move those tanks, all within five miles of entering Ukrainian territory. It’s the latest in a series of Russian provocations aimed at seizing Ukrainian assets.
After the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the Russian government and military have engaged in a near-nonstop effort to provoke Ukraine while violating its sovereignty. Ever since, the Kremlin has also been funding separatists in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, which borders Russia. It’s not known if the movement of Russian troops within sight of Ukraine’s borders has any bearing on the Luhansk insurgency.
Russia has been holding massive war games since 2015, the year after capturing Crimea from Ukraine.
(Photo by K. Kallinkov)
In response to the mass of Russian troops, Ukraine implemented martial law and began the deployment of its Marines and airborne brigades, as well as military exercises involving air strikes and naval forces in the area. Along with the Russian buildup of armored forces, Russian military airfields along the border are being upgraded and modernized.
The buildup not only exists along the recognized Ukraine-Russia border, but Ukrainian military intelligence believes there is a significant buildup of Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula as well.
“The Kremlin is further testing the strength of the global order,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Radio Free Europe. “If the world agrees, the Sea of Azov and then the Black Sea will be turned into a Russian lake.“
A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.
(Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)
In November, 2018, the Russian Navy seized three Ukrainian ships as they tried to traverse the Kerch Strait, linking the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. Ukraine shares a coast with both the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea with Russia, but the Kerch Strait is the only waterway for Ukrainian ships to leave the Sea of Azov for the Black Sea. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded when Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on their ships. Russia also detained 24 Ukrainians.
In recent days, Ukraine has done what it can to resist Russian interference in its affairs, including fighting the rebels in the Donbas region and separating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. The country has also been building up its military and defense systems since 2014, according to NATO officials.
A Ukrainian BTR-80 armored personnel carrier deployed to the Donbas Region of Eastern Ukraine.
(Ukraine Ministry of Defence)
“The Ukrainian military today is very different from the military that they had in 2014,” Kristjan Prikk, the top civilian in Estonia’s ministry of defense, told the Washington Examiner. “The Ukrainians have built, bought, [had] donated quite a lot of equipment. They’ve been putting heavy emphasis on mobility — anti-armor capabilities, communications … It’s definitely a credible fighting force.”
Prikk keeps a close eye on the Russians, especially after Estonia joined NATO, the Western anti-Soviet-turned-anti-Russian alliance in 2004. Ukraine has been trying to join the alliance since 1994 but public support for NATO was very low until the Russian annexation of Crimea 20 years later. Russian President Vladimir Putin is extremely opposed to Ukraine joining the alliance and threatened to annex the Eastern portion of Ukraine if it does so.
History buffs have one wish on the 275th birthday of a Revolutionary War general: That he’ll get the recognition he deserves.
Nathanael Greene was a major general in the Continental Army and a trusted adviser and good friend to George Washington. Historians say his decisions were crucial to the American victory in the South campaign, yet many people haven’t heard of him.
The anniversary of his birth will be marked July 29 at his homestead, a national historic landmark built in 1770 in Coventry, Rhode Island.
David Procaccini, president of the homestead, says Greene is an “important national hero” and he’s trying to get that message out.
Greene has been largely overlooked for many reasons, said Greg Massey, who co-edited a collection of essays about Greene.
Greene oversaw the Army’s supplies for part of the war, which was not a glamorous position. Greene also fought in the South. Especially after the Civil War, historians tended to write about the Revolutionary War through a northern lens.
Greene wore down British forces but never decisively won a major battle. He died shortly after the war. Had he lived, he would’ve likely been one of the early leaders of the federal government.
“We put a lot of stock in our independence, as independent people,” said Massey, a history professor at Freed-Hardeman University. “He’s one of the essential people to the winning of the independence.”
After the Army retired to Valley Forge, Washington asked Greene in 1778 to become the quartermaster general to improve the system of supplies. Greene accepted, though he knew such a position wouldn’t bring the military fame that many generals sought.
“It would be good if Americans knew about the contributions of someone so humble as to be willing to take a job like quartermaster when it was necessary to save the Army,” said Philip Mead, chief historian at the Museum of the American Revolution. “The willingness to sacrifice your own self-interest for the good of your country, that’s an aspirational value in that period and in ours.”
Greene then assumed command in the South. He fought the British in the Carolinas, weakening their forces enough so that the British commander, Charles Cornwallis, had to move to Wilmington, North Carolina, and then on to Yorktown, Virginia, where his forces were trapped by French and American troops in 1781.
“That’s the last big battle of the war. They were still fighting, but the British government began negotiating for peace,” Massey said. “Greene isn’t at Yorktown but everything he did set the stage for that. Without him, that didn’t happen.”
Massey describes Greene as one of the great American generals.
Procaccini is using social media to try to draw people to the homestead, hosting more events and improving the property. Attendance has been increasing in recent years. On July 29, there will be historical reenactors at the site to talk to the public about the war. The ceremony includes a cannon salute and speeches.
Procaccini said it’s an opportunity to tell people about the sacrifices that Greene and men like him made in forming the nation.
The newspaper Stars and Stripes has an interesting little niche in its place in American journalism. Wherever the Armed Forces of the United States may go, Stars and Stripes reporters might just go along with them. The idea of such a paper can be traced back to the Civil War, the reporting as we know it dates back to World War I. While the paper is a government-funded entity reporting on military operations, you might find it full of the hardest-working most objective staff in the world.
And if their movie is to be believed, maybe the craziest staff in the world to boot.
The documentary film The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route is the story of the unsung heroes who deliver the news to the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else the U.S. military gets the newspaper – and everywhere they’ve been for the past 100 years. The film includes never-before-seen imagery from the Stars and Stripes archive of photographers and writers who were in the war zones with the fighting men and women from Verdun to Saigon.
The list of correspondents and contributors to the legendary newspaper include Andy Rooney, Bill Maudlin, Steve Kroft, Shel Silverstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Arnett, to name just a few. Even the civilians working on the staff used to see combat – one civilian in Vietnam even saw action with every major combat unit to go through the country during the war.
How does one news outlet get so much access to the United States military while still retaining their credibility, you might ask. The answer is that even though Stars and Stripes is funded by the Department of Defense, its creative and editorial direction are protected from the Pentagon by Congress. It is something that the readership of the paper looked forward to receiving every time they could, so says Gen. David Petraeus, interviewed for The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.
“It is, in a way, the hometown newspaper of the U.S. military,” Petraeus says.
This is an organization that not only knew what was happening back home, as a matter of course, but also was embedded with the troops on the ground, and knew what was going on in-country. The reporters at Stars and Stripes put their lives on the line to produce a newspaper for the troops – and anyone who might pick up a copy.
In The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route, the viewer goes on a journey downrange to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to see what it’s like to cover the United States military and its operations in today’s Global War on Terror. In places like Afghanistan, picking up the computer and getting a wifi signal isn’t as easy as it may be anywhere else in the world. Here, physical newspapers that provide unquestioned reporting are all American forces have to read and understand the world around them and the world which continues to go on without them back home.
Find out how important the newspaper has been to American troops, see the unparalleled access and legendary images captured by the Stars and Stripes staff, and feel the nerve-wracking stress of seeing an unarmed camera operator out in combat, carrying only a camera.
The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route can be watched free with an Amazon Prime subscription.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to an alleged violation of a treaty between Washington and Moscow that bans medium-range missiles.
Speaking four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Stoltenberg said on Octo. 24, 2018, that NATO is assessing the security implications of the alleged Russian breach.
“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.”
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.Trump said on Oct. 20, 2018, that the United States will pull out of the treaty.
He and White House national-security adviser John Bolton, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.
White House national-security adviser John Bolton.
European governments including those of NATO members France and Germany have voiced concern about Trump’s stated intention to withdraw from the INF, as has the European Union. Bolton said in Moscow that the United States has not yet made any decision to deploy missiles in Europe targeting Moscow.
Stoltenberg said that the INF is “a landmark treaty, but the problem is that no treaty can be effective — can work — if it’s only respected by one party.”
“All [NATO] allies agree that the United States is in full compliance…. The problem is Russian behavior,” he said.
He also expressed hope that Russia and the United States will agree to extend New START, a treaty that restricts long-range nuclear weapons and is due to expire in 2021.
Russia, meanwhile, repeated its criticism of the U.S. plan to withdraw from the INF.
Trump has suggested that the United States will develop missiles that the treaty prohibited once it withdraws, saying when he first announced the planned pullout: “We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons.'”
President Donald J. Trump.
That is “an extremely dangerous intention,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call on Oct. 24, 2018.
Peskov also said that the Kremlin is “undoubtedly ready” to discuss the possibility of a summit in Washington in 2019 between Putin and Trump, but that there was “no concrete decision on this.”
Bolton has suggested that Trump and Putin, who held their first full-fledged summit in July 2018 in Helsinki, could have another such meeting in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Peskov said the Kremlin is preparing for a “possible meeting” between Trump and Putin at an event in Paris on Nov. 11, 2018, commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I.
At his talks with Bolton on Oct. 23, 2018, Putin mentioned the possibility of a Paris meeting on Nov. 11, 2018, and Bolton said that Trump would like to hold such a meeting.