7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.


The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.

To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:

7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.

The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.

The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.

To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.

A North Korean ICBM (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Tie means with ends.

Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.

Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.

5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.

Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.

Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.

4. Prioritize among threats.

Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.

Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.

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

3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.

The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.

If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.

2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.

As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.

It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.

1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.

While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.

The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.

It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.

Articles

North Korea says its ICBM test ends ‘blackmail’ from US

A state television announcement said the missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan on July 4, could hit targets anywhere in the world.


But the US and Russia said the missile had a medium range and presented no threat to either country.

North Korea has increased the frequency of its missile tests, in defiance of a ban by the UN Security Council.

China and Russia called on Pyongyang to freeze its missile and nuclear activities.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The announcement on North Korea state television said the Hwasong-14 missile test was overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.

It said the projectile had reached an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) and flew 933km for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the sea.

North Korea, it said, was now “a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world.”

It would enable the country to “put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail” and defend the Korean peninsula, it said.

North Korean Missile.(Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

While Pyongyang appears to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately hit a target with an ICBM, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit onto such a missile.

Other nuclear powers have also cast doubt on North Korea’s assessment, with Russia saying the missile only reached an altitude of 535km and flew about 510km.

How far could this missile travel?

The big question is what range it has, says the BBC’s Steven Evans in Seoul. Could it hit the United States?

Photo from North Korean State Media.

David Wright, a physicist with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, says that if the reports are correct, this missile could “reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700km on a standard trajectory”.

That range would allow it to reach Alaska, but not the large islands of Hawaii or the other 48 US states, he says.

It is not just a missile that North Korea would need, our correspondent adds. It must also have the ability to protect a warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere, and it is not clear if North Korea can do that.

Once again North Korea has defied the odds and thumbed its nose at the world in a single missile launch. With the test of the Hwasong-14, it has shown that it can likely reach intercontinental ballistic missile ranges including putting Alaska at risk.

Kim Jong-un has long expressed his desire for such a test, and to have it on the 4 July holiday in the US is just the icing on his very large cake.

Despite this technical achievement, however, it is likely many outside North Korea will continue to be skeptical of North Korea’s missile. They will ask for proof of working guidance, re-entry vehicle, and even a nuclear warhead.

From a technical perspective, though, their engines have demonstrated ICBM ranges, and this would be the first of several paths North Korea has to an ICBM with even greater range.

Are neighbors and nuclear powers concerned?

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Japan described “repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would “unite strongly” with the US and South Korea to put pressure on Pyongyang.

Russia and China said the launch was “unacceptable”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders urged Pyongyang to suspend all its tests. They also asked the US and South Korea to not hold joint military exercises.

US President Donald Trump also responded swiftly on July 4.

On his Twitter account he made apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”

Photo by Michael Vadon

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

President Trump has repeatedly called on China, Pyongyang’s closest economic ally, to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs.

On the prospect of North Korea being able to strike the US, he tweeted in January: “It won’t happen”. However experts say it might – within five years or less.

Beijing called for “restraint” following the latest test on July 4.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was opposed to North Korea going against clear UN Security Council resolutions on its missile launches.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK “stood alongside the US and our allies to confront the threat North Korea poses to international security”.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to avoid sending the tuna sandwich of deployment care packages

Does anyone else look at deployment box ideas online and instantly run to the nearest bottle of wine for courage? Why bother when there’s likely a subscription box for that? How does one avoid the ‘tuna sandwich’ of care packages, and pridefully send items they really care about? What if I have zero creative skills but want to wow my service member?


We chatted with Rachel McQuiston, Navy spouse and self-proclaimed care package enthusiast for her expert advice on nailing deployment packages like the pros with minimal stress.

“You can overwhelm yourself with the theme and miss out of the whole part of what makes a great care package- intentionality,” says McQuiston, who became deeply attached to this tradition when her husband deployed four times in the first four years of their marriage.

“This is how we keep him in our daily lives, by adding an item to my shopping list, by looking for a good deal, it feels like we’re connected.”

Budgets present a significant barrier for some spouses, and can lead to insecurities, the last feeling any spouse should have while they are enduring a deployment. McQuiston encourages others to make this (the packages) that thing you take your family and friends up on the offer when they ask how they can help during deployment.

Tips like buying in bulk and spreading certain items over multiple packages or adding a few items to a weekly shopping list are other great suggestions on keeping costs in check.

For those fortunate enough not to be financially burdened, taking on the needs of other service members within your significant other’s location is the way to keep everyone strong. “I’ll often send my husband extras of one item in his packages, and around the holidays I’ve even sent an entire box labeled ‘to share’ instead of his individual package,” says McQuiston, who realized that not everyone gets mail early on.

One misconception driving stress surrounding these packages is the thought that theme or even the contents are what makes a box exceptional.

“My husband tells me his favorite part of the boxes is always opening it up, because he can smell my perfume, a little reminder of home.”

Personal touches, like the service member’s own brand of toothpaste or the spritz of your perfume which creates an instantaneous connection to home from thousands of miles away. “You can send the sleekest or coolest looking box, but if it’s not what they want or what they actually need, it’s off the mark,” says McQuiston on why sending care packages is and will always be her first choice.

What are the top things a care package expert recommends? Her tested list is less glamourous and less themed than you might think.

  • Service member-specific toiletries or brands
  • Products with a high shelf life (granola bars or powdered drink mixes)
  • Photos

What service members can actually use on deployment may vary depending on their assignments. Command outposts and Forward Operating Bases are two completely different environments. Wool socks aren’t sexy, but they are warm. Beef jerky (again) may seem lame but is a highly coveted item where MRE’s are what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What’s on her list of least recommended items? Things like chocolate, or any homemade food due to a high risk of spoiling in unpredictable climates or longer than anticipated shipping times. We can all rest easy not having to master the art of cupcakes in a jar.

Still feeling unsure or incapable? One piece of advice McQuiston feels vital to the overall experience is involving others in the process. “Throw a care package party where everyone pitches in on supplies, decorating, and feels comradery around what they’re doing,” she adds that beverages always make the party better.

McQuiston carries a foolproof guide to care packages on her website, Countdowns and Cupcakes, as well as inspirational pictures and ideas to help you feel confident.

Articles

Iran-backed rebels attack US ship for third time in a week

For the third time in a week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason came under attack off the coast of Yemen by Iran-backed insurgents.


Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen in recent weeks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

As was the case in the previous attacks, the incoming missiles were apparently fired by Houthi rebels late Saturday night and did not hit the destroyer. Yemen is about 7 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States.

According to a report by NBC News, the Mason used countermeasures to avoid being hit. The previous attacks on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 apparently used Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802. In the Oct. 9 incident, USS Mason used a Nulka decoy as well as an SM-2 and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles to defeat the attack.

The second attack was defeated using what a DOD statement termed as “defensive countermeasures.”

Following the Oct. 12 attack, USS Nitze (DDG 94) launched three Tomahawk cruise missiles on radar stations officials believed helped the Houthis target the U.S. ships.

The Pentagon reported the radar stations were destroyed, but there had been speculation that the Houthi rebels used personnel in small boats or skiffs to spot targets for the anti-ship missiles.

Iran responded to the attack by deploying at least two surface combatants off the coast of Yemen.

The Mason and Nitze were deployed near Yemen with the USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) after the former Navy high-speed transport HSV-2 Swift was attacked by Houthi rebels using RPG rockets. At least two of the anti-tank rounds hit the Swift, which suffered a fire, and has been towed from the area.

In a statement after the Nitze launched the Tomahawks against the Houthis, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook warned, “The United States will respond to any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic, as appropriate, and will continue to maintain our freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb, and elsewhere around the world.”

Apparently, the Houthi didn’t think the United States was serious.

Articles

Veteran launches ‘The War Horse’ to tell stories of Iraq, Afghanistan

Cindy Schepers | The War Horse


One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.

Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”

Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.

He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.

In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”

Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.

The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.

Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.

In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.

While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”

Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new bomber will retire these others

With the A-10 Thunderbolt II having narrowly escaped the chopping block and the F-15C Eagle currently awaiting a potentially early end to its service, the Air Force’s bomber fleet is next to face a series of retirements. While the older B-52 Stratofortress is currently safe, the Air Force is currently considering putting the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit out to pasture earlier than expected with the eventual advent of its next-generation B-21 Raider bomber.


The Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the major command under which its bombers serve, plans on procuring between 80 to 100 of the new bomber, if not more. Earlier plans called for Global Strike Command to phase in the B-21, which would serve alongside the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52 for years before gradually replacing them altogether.

Now, instead of simply adding the planned complement of B-21s to the existing fleet of B-1Bs, B-2s, and B-52s, the service would instead begin retiring its Lancers and Spirits by the 2030s and supersede them en masse with scores of Raiders.

The B-1B Lancer serves as America’s sole supersonic strategic bomber. A marvel of engineering, the Lancer can comfortably dash at supersonic speeds at low altitudes, making it almost untouchable by enemy air defense systems. While originally designed to fulfill a nuclear strike role during the Cold War, the Lancer has since evolved into a conventional munitions “bomb truck,” serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past twenty years in close air support roles.

A B-1B from Ellsworth AFB operating over Afghanistan in 2008 (Photo U.S. Air Force)

For all its incredible power and strategic value, however, the Lancer does come with a set of limitations. Its high operating and maintenance costs make retaining it as a long-term active bomber a very expensive and undesirable option. Additionally, it is prohibited, by treaty, from carrying cruise missiles.

Existing in a class of its own, the B-2 Spirit is an aircraft unlike any other. Born of a need to revamp America’s aging Cold War bomber fleet of B-52s with a long-range deep strike aircraft that couldn’t be shot down if sighted. The solution to that last requirement was to build an aircraft that couldn’t be spotted at all — an all-stealth bomber that evades and defeats radar detection.

While the B-2 was highly revolutionary with its flying-wing, all-stealth design, and still remains unmatched today, the Air Force has an undeniably strong rationale behind pushing it towards retirement as well.

A B-2 Spirit taxiing at Andersen AFB, Guam. (Photo U.S. Air Force)

The B-2’s operating costs are sky-high, coming in at a whopping $130,159 USD per flight hour. With just a 20-strong fleet of Spirits, this plus the fleet’s unique support structure and incredible maintenance costs combine for a strong case against holding onto the B-2 for more than the next two decades.

The B-52, on the other hand, will soldier on for decades to come due to the fact that it can carry a considerably diverse combat payload, including guided “smart” munitions, and the Long Range Standoff cruise missile. Additionally, the B-52, more popularly known as the “BUFF,” will soon be upgraded with newer fuel-efficient turbofan engines, which will make it even easier to maintain, cheaper to fly in the long term, and improve performance metrics.

A B-52 operating out of Minot AFB, North Dakota (Photo US Air Force)

While the B-21 and the B-2 will share a passing resemblance with their flying wing architecture, the new bomber is projected to be far more cost-effective, easier to maintain, and highly multi-role, with the ability to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions as needed. It will also be able to carry the LRSO upon its completion and entry into service.

It should be noted, however, that nothing is set in stone. The Air Force will have to account for this proposed plan to Congress before putting it into effect, and as with the earlier A-10 retirement issues, it’s all too possible that Congress could stand in the way of America’s B-1B and B-2 fleets being sent to the boneyard early.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Special Forces accused of lowering standards to meet quotas

The Army’s Special Warfare Center and School has launched an investigation into an anonymous email that accused its leaders of “moral cowardice” for ditching training standards and allowing undeserving soldiers to become members of elite Green Beret teams.


The sharply critical message was sent earlier this week to a wide swath of the Army’s Special Forces community. The nearly 6,300-word message declared that the school’s senior officers and enlisted leaders are primarily interested in advancing their careers by meeting demands for greater numbers of Green Berets and enforcing “political agendas.”

Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, commanding general of the school located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Nov. 30 defended the process for selecting Green Berets and rejected a number of the claims in the email. He said he stands firmly behind the “quality of every soldier we are sending to the operational force,” in a statement delivered to “men and women” of the Special Warfare Center and School.

U.S. Army Special Forces prepare to load a MH-60 Black Hawk after fast roping onto a target, during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

Sonntag also said comments in the email “warrant further evaluation” and that is being done through “formal inquiries and a number of existing institutional forums.” He wasn’t more specific, however.

The anonymous email said the push to hit unrealistic quotas has led to a “dangerously less capable” force as dozens of flawed Green Beret candidates are nonetheless graduated. The message said instructors who’ve sought to hold students accountable for their academic, physical, and character performance have been instead muzzled or punished.

Also read: This Green Beret lived in a cave before receiving the Medal of Honor

But Sonntag denied that instructors have been sidelined. He said the school is consistently told its graduates “are well-trained, physically fit, and ready to join their teams from day one.”

Each of the five active-duty Special Forces groups consists of roughly 1,400 troops. The groups’ primary fighting units are 12-man “A Teams” that are led by captains.

The email also asserts that the officers and enlisted leaders in charge of Green Beret training want to enhance their prospects for promotion by ensuring female candidates are capable of completing the punishing qualification course. Women, the author said, should be outraged by the implication they need preferential treatment.

“The cruelty of the situation is that any woman with the fortitude to attempt this training would most definitely have wanted the standards to remain the same,” according to the message. “It is a point of pride to know you are every bit as capable as the best of the best, if you can do it. But they have been robbed of the ability to earn that achievement.”

Read Also: This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

The author of the email is identified only as “A concerned Green Beret.” But the amount of detail in the message — the names of some Green Beret candidates are listed — suggested the author is a current or very recent instructor in the Special Forces qualification course.

The person who wrote the message aimed to be unknown. A copy of the message obtained by The Associated Press shows it was sent through ProtonMail, a secure service based in Switzerland that assures users their data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws.

Green Beret units have been at the forefront in the fight against terrorist groups since the Sept. 11 attacks and their success has led Republican and Democratic administrations to conclude more of them would be better. So they’ve grown in size, putting pressure on the Special Warfare Center and School to turn out enough graduates to keep the ranks full.

But that’s triggered concerns quality is being sacrificed for quantity. A retired Green Beret officer who still works for the U.S. government used a sports analogy to make the point. No matter how popular Division 1 college football becomes, he said, there’s a finite number of people capable of playing at that level. The same holds for Special Forces. The former officer wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army Photo)

The author of the message said the grueling Green Beret qualification course has been watered down so much that candidates are almost assured of graduation once they’re selected to go through the yearlong program.

“After passing a 19-ish day selection process, there are no physical barriers to earning the coveted Green Beret,” according to the message. “These all were standards for EVERY Green Beret in modern history prior to this month. To say that standards have not been eliminated would be laughable, were it not so tragic.”

But Sonntag said no fundamental standard for assessing future Green Berets has been removed or adjusted even as the qualification course has modified multiple times since the Sept. 11 attacks. And he said the training remains among the most difficult in the U.S. military. So far in 2017, 541 soldiers have completed the Green Beret qualification course out of more than 2,000 who sought to be selected for the program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump orders 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan

President Donald Trump has ordered the immediate withdrawal of more than 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan, according to multiple reports, citing defense officials.


In what appears to be the first major step toward ending America’s involvement in a war fought for nearly two decades, the president has decided to cut the US military presence in Afghanistan in half, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are currently roughly 14,000 American service members in the war-torn country.

News of the withdrawal comes just one day after Trump declared victory over ISIS and announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a move that reportedly drove the president’s secretary of defense to resign from his position Dec. 20, 2018.

“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one senior U.S. official told TheWSJ. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”

Another official told The New York Times that the Afghan forces, which have suffered unbelievably high casualties, need to learn to stand on their own, something senior military leaders have suggested they may not yet be ready to do.

Troops secure a landing zone in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

US military leaders, most recently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” with no end in sight. A total of 14 American service members have died in Afghanistan this year, six in the last two months alone.

US troops are both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda. In September 2017, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.

The decision to reduce the number of US troops in country to roughly half their current levels was reportedly made at the same time Trump decided to withdraw from Syria.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy gets more money for its next nuclear-armed submarines

The Navy 2019 budget request increases funding for the service’s new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine by $2 billion over 2018’s amount in what appears to be a clear effort to further accelerate technology development and early production.


The request, which marks a substantial move on the part of the Navy and DoD, asks for $3.7 billion in 2019, up from $1.9 billion in 2018. The new budget effort is quite significant, given that there has been a chorus of concern in recent years that there would not be enough money to fund development of the new submarines, without devastating the Navy shipbuilding budget.

The Columbia-class plus-up is a key element of the across-the-board Navy budget increase; overall, the Navy 2019 request jumps $14 billion over 2018, climbing to $194 billion.

Many regard the Columbia-class submarines, slated to enter service in the early 2030s, as the number one DoD priority, and it is quite possible the additional dollars will not only advance technical development and early construction, but may also move the entire production timeline closer.

Also read: This is what ‘eternal patrol’ means for submarines

Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.

Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials said.

Perhaps of equal or greater significance is the fast-evolving current global threat environment which, among other things, brings the realistic prospect of a North Korean nuclear weapons attack. Undersea strategic deterrence therefore, as described by Navy leaders, brings a critical element of the nuclear triad by ensuring a second strike ability in the event of attack. The submarines are intended to quietly patrol lesser known portions of the global undersea domain. Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.

Unless timelines are accelerated, which appears likely, construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials said. Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines are intended to perform a somewhat contradictory, yet essential mission. By ensuring the prospect of massive devastation to an enemy through counterattack, weapons of total destruction can – by design – succeed in keeping the peace.

Columbia-class technology

Although complete construction is slated to ramp up fully in the next decade, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers have already been prototyping key components, advancing science and technology efforts and working to mature a handful of next-generation technologies.

With this in mind, the development strategy for the Columbia-class could well be described in terms of a two-pronged approach; in key respects, the new boats will introduce a number of substantial leaps forward or technical innovations – while simultaneously leveraging currently available cutting-edge technologies from the Virginia-class attack submarines, Navy program managers have told Warrior in interviews over the years.

A conceptual image of the Virginia-class submarine. (US Depart of Defense graphic by Ron Stern)

Designed to be 560-feet– long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.

While Navy developers explain that many elements of the new submarines are not available for discussion for security reasons, some of its key innovations include a more efficient electric drive propulsion system driving the shafts and a next-generation nuclear reactor. A new reactor will enable extended deployment possibilities and also prolong the service life of submarines, without needing to perform the currently practiced mid-life refueling.

Related: Here’s what life is like aboard the largest US Navy submarine

By engineering a “life-of-ship” reactor core, the service is able to build 12 Columbia-class boats able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program $40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers said.

Regarding development of the US-UK Common Missile Compartment, early “tube and hull” forging has been underway for several years already.

The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.

(Photo from U.S. Navy)

The Columbia-class will also use Virginia-class’s next-generation communications system, antennas, and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.

The Columbia-class will utilize Virginia-class’s fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship’s control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern, a Navy Virginia Class program developer told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

More: 27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine

Sonar technology works by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.

Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.

In January 2017, development of the new submarines has passed what’s termed “Milestone B,” clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production.

Fall 2017, the Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5 billion contract award is for design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s growing submarine fleet is ‘armed to the teeth’

In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.


“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, Crashback. It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”

Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.

Also read: The Navy gets more money for its next nuclear-armed submarines

One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.

The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February 2018 interview. But “China has grown — in terms of maritime power, maritime projection — more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”

That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.

‘Armed to the teeth’

The Virginia-class attack sub USS North Dakota. (Photo by US Navy)

Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs — capable of firing anti-ship and land-attack missiles — and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.

“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.

More: Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.

The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.

That expansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.

“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”

China’s subs are also stretching their legs.

In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan — the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)

In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.

In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea— the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.

“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”

‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’

A Chinese Shang-class nuclear attack submarine in the contiguous zone of the Senkaku Islands. (Photo by Japanese Ministry of Defense)

The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.

US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.

A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.

Related: The US Navy’s most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers

The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs — which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.

China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.

Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”

“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”

“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power — it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.

Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”

Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November 2017, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March 2018 it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.

Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years — a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.

In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces diesel-electric submarine in an undated photo released by Japan. (Photo by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.

India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.

The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.

Read more: Trump pardoned a sailor who took illegal photos of a submarine

India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back — the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.

India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.

Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.

Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance — which extends Beijing’s influence.

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015. (Photo by Indian navy)

“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity

“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”

All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.

More: What it’s like having a submarine crash into your ship

Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.

“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”

“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

The Department of Defense announced on Aug. 13, 2018, it will extend eligibility for Military OneSource benefits from the current 180 days to 365 days after separation or retirement from military service to ensure all service members and families have access to comprehensive support as they transition to civilian life. This change goes into effect Aug. 13, 2018, in accordance with the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.

Military OneSource provides information, resources and support for active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members, their families and survivors. Provided at no cost, Military OneSource gives exclusive access to programs, tools, and benefits designed to help ensure service members and their families are mission-ready and able to thrive in both their military and post-military lives.


“Each person is unique, and so is each military-to-civilian transition,” said. A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “We want all of Military OneSource’s resources to be there when someone needs them — whether it is a day, a week or many months after their transition to civilian life.”

(U.S. Army photo by Edward N. Johnson)

As a DOD program, Military OneSource offers a wide range of services designed exclusively for the military community. Services include help with relocation, tax support, financial planning, health and wellness coaching, as well as confidential non-medical counseling and specialty consultations for spouse employment, education, adoption, elder care, special needs, and much more.

“Military OneSource is powered by people with extensive knowledge and training in meeting the needs of our military community, many of whom have also served or lived in military families,” explained Lee Kelley, program director of the Non-medical Counseling Program Office within military community and family policy. “We’re dedicated to providing expert, proven, and practical support and information to our service members and their families to help them achieve their goals and live their best military life.”

Military OneSource services are accessible 24/7, service members and family members can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or go to www.militaryonesource.mil. To explore additional benefits that may be available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, go to https://explore.va.gov/.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

SOCOM wants drugs to turn its K9s into super dogs

Officials in charge of equipping America’s top commando units are looking for some high-tech drugs to help boost the performance if their 150 “multi-purpose canines.”


According to news reports, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to find pharmaceutical products or nutritional supplements that will enhance canine hearing, eyesight and other senses.

Think of it as a “Q” for America’s four-legged special operators.

Military Working Dog Toby, 23d Security Forces Squadron, prepares for an MWD demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

According to an official solicitation for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, SOCOM is looking for a product or combination of products that will do the following:

  • Increase endurance
  • Improve a dog’s ability to regulate body temperature
  • Improve hydration
  • Improve acclimatization to acute extremes in temperature, altitude, and/or time zone changes
  • Increase the speed of recovery from strenuous work
  • Improve hearing
  • Improve vision
  • Improve scent
  • Decrease adverse effects due to blood loss.

SOCOM’s military working dogs have been front and center on several top commando raids — with the most famous being Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who joined SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

SOCOM, though, is also looking to neutralize enemy K9s through what another solicitation calls “canine response inhibitors.”

Now, during the Vietnam War, the preferred “canine response inhibitor” was known as the “Hush Puppy.” But these days SOCOM is looking for some less permanent methods, including:

  • Inhibit barking, howling, and whining
  • Inhibit hearing
  • Inhibit vision
  • Inhibit scent
  • Induce unconsciousness
  • Induce movement away from the area where the effects are deployed

Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julia A. Casper

Like the performance enhancers, the “canine response inhibitors” could also be used outside the military.

So, the company or companies that win the hearts and minds of SOCOM’s puppies could catch a huge break.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

A retired Navy SEAL wounded in the search for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, testified about the harrowing firefight that ended his career.


Speaking at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing Oct. 25, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch choked up when describing how enemy combatants shot a trained dog that was with the team before shooting him just above his right knee.

“I really thought that I was going to die,” Hatch said.

Hatch walks with a limp after undergoing 18 surgeries to repair his leg.

Bowe Berghdal. Photo from US Army

The former Navy SEAL, forced to retire from the military after nearly 26 years of service because of injuries sustained while searching for Bergdahl, said he had known days before that the search was going to be hazardous.

Also Read: SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

“Somebody’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get that kid,” he recalled saying to his teammates.

Trump motion still pending

The hearing started with a surprise, as the judge, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, said he was not yet ready to rule on the defense’s argument that recent comments by President Donald Trump had made a fair hearing impossible.

“I’m still considering it,” Nance said.

President Donald Trump’s remarks on Bergdahl may affect the sentencing now that he is the Commander in Chief. Photo from White House Flickr.

The defense has argued that the president seemed to endorse previous assertions, made when he was a presidential candidate, that Bergdahl was a traitor and deserved execution. As commander in chief, he is the superior officer of all the military officials responsible for disciplining Bergdahl.

Questioned by reporters last week about Bergdahl, Trump said he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court-martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to extend into next week.