No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein thanked Congress for providing the resources necessary to restore the service’s readiness while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support Oct. 10, 2018.

During her testimony, Wilson praised Congress for passing an appropriations bill on time for the first time in nearly a decade.

“With your help, we have made great strides in a short period of time,” she said. “We are more ready today than we were two years ago.”

After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.


Today more than 75 percent of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready with their lead forces packages. The service’s goal is for 80 percent of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – 6 years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.

“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority.” Goldfein said. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard, and reserve components.”

To do this the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.

People

For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers. In September 2016, the service was short 4,000 active duty maintainers, but by December 2018 that number is expected to reach zero.

“Actions by Congress over the last few years has been tremendously helpful,” Wilson said. “Now we must get these airmen the experience needed to become craftsman at their work.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.

In addition to maintainers, the Air Force has placed an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage, first by addressing quality of service and quality of life issues, and also increasing financial incentives and providing more control over assignments and career paths.

The Air Force is increasing the number of pilots it trains from 1,160 a year in FY 2017 to 1,311 in FY 2019, building to 1,500 by FY 2022 and steady state, thereafter.

Training

As part of the readiness recovery, the Air Force is focused on providing relevant and realistic training to maintain an advantage over increasingly capable adversaries. To meet this need the service is investing in operational training infrastructure — ranges and airspace — and simulation.

The Air Force is also improving infrastructure, simulators, threat emulators and training ranges to enhance realism and enable airmen to train locally for a high-end, multi-domain fight.

Cost-effective maintenance and logistics 

The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply, and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.

“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”

The Air Force is already seeing improvements in its depots, increasing depot production by 20 percent, completing 75 aircraft per year.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President wants to send astronauts back to the moon

President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.


The president December 11 signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Pacific Ocean from space (image Flickr blueforce4116)

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Also Read: The soldier accused of ties with ISIS thinks the Moon landing was faked

The policy grew from a unanimous recommendation by the new National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, after its first meeting Oct. 5. In addition to the direction to plan for human return to the Moon, the policy also ends NASA’s existing effort to send humans to an asteroid. The president revived the National Space Council in July to advise and help implement his space policy with exploration as a national priority.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts,” said Vice President Pence. “As the President has said, space is the ‘next great American frontier’ – and it is our duty – and our destiny – to settle that frontier with American leadership, courage, and values. The signing of this new directive is yet another promise kept by President Trump.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
President Donald Trump signs the Presidential Space Directive – 1, directing NASA to return to the moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Among other dignitaries on hand for the signing, were NASA astronauts Sen. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Buzz Aldrin, Peggy Whitson and Christina Koch. Schmitt landed on the moon 45 years to the minute that the policy directive was signed as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, and is the most recent living person to have set foot on our lunar neighbor. Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Whitson spoke to the president from space in April aboard the International Space Station and while flying back home after breaking the record for most time in space by a U.S. astronaut in September. Koch is a member of NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.

Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.

“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

A piece of Moon rock was brought to the White House as a reminder of the exploration history and American successes at the Moon on which the new policy will build. Lunar Sample 70215 was retrieved from the Moon’s surface and returned by Schmitt’s Apollo 17 crew. Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to land astronauts on the Moon and returned with the greatest amount of rock and soil samples for investigation.

The sample is a basaltic lava rock similar to lava found in Hawaii. It crystallized 3.84 billion years ago when lava flowed from the Camelot Crater. Sliced off a parent rock that originally weighed 8,110 grams, the sample weighs 14 grams, and is very fine grained, dense and tough. During the six Apollo surface excursions from 1969 to 1972, astronauts collected 2,196 rock and soil samples weighting 842 pounds. Scientific studies help us learn about the geologic history of the Moon, as well as Earth. They help us understand the mineral and chemical resources available to support future lunar exploration.

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Iranian drone buzzes US carrier for the second time in a week

An Iranian drone has flown close enough to a US aircraft carrier to put the lives of American pilots of F-18 fighter jets at risk, the US Navy said on August 14.


In the second such close encounter in a week, an Iranian QOM-1 drone late on August 13 flew within 300 meters of the USS Nimitz in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner without its lights on, said US Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey.

Controllers for the drone did not respond to radio requests for communications, he said, adding that the drone was unarmed but that it was a model that can carry missiles.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

McConnaughey said flying the drone without lights “created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision” and was not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.

US officials have complained of 14 such unsafe close encounters this year, almost always involving Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which Washington recently targeted with sanctions.

Last week, officials said an Iranian drone nearly collided with a US fighter jet that was landing on the aircraft carrier.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps issued a statement on August 15 saying their drones are guided “accurately and professionally,” dismissing the US Navy’s concerns as “unfounded.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Looking for your next vice? Meet Ranger Candy Coffee

It’s no secret that veterans and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly. As more and more people separate from active duty to pursue their passions, the number of boutique coffee companies run by prior service folks is only growing.

One of the newest is Ranger Candy Coffee. Ranger Candy is run by a former US Army mortarman who served a total of eight years both on active duty and with the National Guard. The company launched earlier this year with the goal of bringing high-quality coffee to service members, first responders, and outdoorsmen. The HMFIC at Ranger Candy also owns a home remodeling company, giving us hope that the American work ethic isn’t completely dead.


No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Ranger Candy starts with hand-selected, single-origin Arabica beans that they import from 18 different countries. The beans are then blended, roasted, ground, and shipped by the Ranger Candy crew anywhere in the US or to anybody working overseas with an APO/DPO/FPO. They offer light, medium and dark roasts available in six different grinds from fine to espresso to coarse, with a couple of settings in between. You can purchase quantities from 12 ounces to 12 pounds as well as K-Cups.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

We received our own sample of Ranger Candy in a re-sealable 12-ounce bag that kind of reminded us of an MRE pouch. We’re not sure if that was on purpose or if we happen to be feeling nostalgic. Said sample was a standard grind dark roast sourced from Tanzania. We know it came from Tanzania because the label on the bag includes a list of all 18 countries they source from, and they will conveniently “check the box” next to the country of origin for your particular bag of coffee. In fact, you can specify the country of origin when you order. Do you prefer Mexican coffee to Costa Rican? Or Indian? Or Ugandan? You can specify the country of origin when you place your order. If you’re not sure what you prefer, the Ranger Candy website includes tasting and origin notes for each of the countries they source from.

For our Tanzanian sample, tasting notes were chocolate, cherries, and caramel. We caught the chocolate and think maybe we tasted a little bit of cherry on the finish, but couldn’t find the caramel. Your mileage may vary. But we also learned that our coffee was grown at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Mbeya region.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Ranger Candy coffee runs .99 per 12 ounce bag, regardless of country-of-origin. They also offer a line of mugs and swag to accompany your cup of joe. Check them out at www.rangercandycoffee.com or on your social media of choice.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

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This Marine says ‘bravo’ to an opera about the battle of Fallujah

An opera titled “Fallujah” opened among critical acclaim Nov. 17 in New York City, stunning audiences composed of civilians, veterans, and active duty alike.


One of the active duty service members in attendance was this writer’s husband, Marine 2nd Lt James Foley, now a student naval aviator.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

Foley is a former enlisted infantryman with three deployments to Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and one deployment to Sangin, Afghanistan, with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines under his belt.

Foley writes:

Let me start off by saying that I am biased. I have spent 14 plus years in the Marine Corps, so naturally I had my reservations about an opera that is about Marines in Fallujah.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

It turned out to not be as much about the battle in the city, but the battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that a Marine had as a result of the war.

I found myself captivated with the message.

Philip (played by LaMarcus Miller) wants to be a good person, but the war has made him numb.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

He keeps reliving the gruesome images he went through in Fallujah and it is tearing him apart. He feels alienated from all those that love him.

I served in four combat deployments, to include a deployment to Fallujah. I can relate to Philip and all the emotions he is dealing with.

It is a moving story that highlights the struggles our veterans go through. They are separated from their families to fight a war, and when they come home, they start fighting new battles.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

None of their friends from before the military understand what they have been through. Their families don’t understand either.

When they finally fulfill their obligation and leave the military, there is no one there that understands their struggles.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

“Fallujah” isn’t just about the military service members struggles, it also addresses the struggle of the Iraqi people in that city.

It explains the impact that this battle had on those that lived there. It shows the frustration of the Iraqi people.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

This opera also shows the struggles that families deal with trying to love and support their veterans when they do not know how to.

War is ugly, and whether or not you agree with the Iraq war, it happened.

Some of these men and women who served may not have agreed with the war, but they went and served. This brilliant production captures the emotions of that war and what those who have experienced it are going through.

I have never been a fan of opera, I can remember telling myself that I would never go to one.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Photo by Tim Kolczak

I went to see “Fallujah” twice and I would go again.

I strongly recommend that everyone see this opera.  It can shed some light on what war can do to military members, their families who support them at home, as well as the innocent civilians caught in the middle.

It is a must see performance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when a Coast Guard icebreaker caught fire near Antarctica

During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.

The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.


According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”

Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.

Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who was Coast Guard commandant between mid-2014 and mid-2018, said in December 2018 that he turned down a request to carry out a freedom-of-navigation exercise in the Arctic out of concern the Polar Star would break down and need Russia to rescue it.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.

Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.

Source: Stuff

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)

The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.

In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.

But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump releases PREVENTS roadmap for ending suicide among Veterans and all Americans

On June 17, 2020, President Trump released the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). This landmark nationwide plan engages Americans in a nationwide effort to prevent suicide, connect Veterans and others at risk to federal and local resources, and facilitate coordinated research on suicide prevention.

“My administration is taking steps to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for us when they were called will be given the care and attention they need during some of their darkest hours,” said President Donald J. Trump.

The roadmap is the result of an Executive Order that President Trump signed on March 5, 2019. It calls for several steps to advance this critical national goal, many of which are already underway:


National Suicide Prevention Activation Campaign

This summer, the PREVENTS Office will launch a nationwide public health campaign aimed at educating Americans that suicide is preventable. It creates awareness of mental health and suicide prevention best practices with a call to action for ALL Americans to take the PREVENTS Pledge to Prevent Suicide.

Improving Suicide Prevention Research

Too often, we focus on a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention that fails to take into account an individual’s specific risk factors. As a key element of the roadmap, PREVENTS will launch the National Research Strategy to accelerate the development and implementation of effective solutions to help prevent suicide among Veterans and all Americans.

Building Partnerships

The PREVENTS Office has built relationships with dozens of organizations across the country. These include Veteran and military service organizations, faith-based groups, universities, non-profits, corporations, small businesses. It also includes state and local governments to share best practices for promoting mental health, to ensure awareness of and access to federal, state, local and tribal resources.

“The release of the PREVENTS Roadmap is a critical step in advancing the national priority of preventing suicide in this nation, but it is only a first step” said PREVENTS Executive Director Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. “With our Veterans leading the way, we will engage all Americans as we fully implement the PREVENTS Roadmap. Together we will prevent suicide.”

For more on PREVENTS, please visit: https://www.va.gov/prevents/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-16 fighter pilot left dangling from electricity line

An F-16 fighter pilot got stuck dangling from a live electricity line outside a rural French town after the jet crashed and they ejected from the plane.

The Belgian Air Force jet crashed into a field after grazing a house with its wing in Pluvigner, Brittany, at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 19, 2019, The Associated Press and Le Parisien report.

Both pilots ejected safely and are believed to be alive, The Belgian Air Force confirmed on Twitter, writing: “The pilots left the plane using their ejectable seats.”


Photos posted to social media show what appears to be a pilot hanging from an overhead electrical wire.

A National Police spokeswoman told the AP no injuries were reported among residents in the area. Police have set up a 500-meter security perimeter around the crash site.

The owner of the house damaged in the crash told Ouest-France: “We were in the garden. We heard a great boom and a sound of tearing metal. Moments later, a second explosion and another tearing of scrap metal.”

The F-16 was travelling from an air base in Florennes, near Namur, to the French naval air base at Lann-Bihoué, Morbihan, and was not armed, local officials told French media.

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

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13 funniest military memes for the week of March 31

It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.


In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:

1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
That’s where they keep both alcohol and titillation.

2. Believe it or not, the DD-214 won’t solve all your problems (via Shit my LPO says).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
It only solves your worst ones.

ALSO READ: 4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

3. Sounds like the E-4 Mafia is going to let you have a little taste of what they took (via Military World).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

4. Airmen getting after it (via Military Memes).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Carrying over seven pounds of pillows and firing a .5mm laser. Air Power!

5. When the commander suddenly remembers that he doesn’t want you promoted:

(via Marine Corps Memes)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

6. “Alright new officers and privates, here are your compasses and maps …”

(via Lost in the Sauce)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

7. Anyone that doe-eyed is unlikely to want to hear your war stories (via Pop smoke).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

8. Some things can’t be treated with ibuprofen (via Decelerate Your Life).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Bet the corpsman give each other real medicine.

9. The true secret to the military:

(via Decelerate Your Life)

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
E-4 is E-4 is E-4.

10. Knees in the breeze, Donald (via Do You Even Jump?).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Not sure how you lower your combat load when it’s rigged that way, though. Maybe have a jumpmaster check that out.

11. This is Sgt. Rex, and you will stand at parade rest for him (via Air Force Nation).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
The man behind the flag is Carl. Feel free to kick him.

12. Today is a special day for the Corps. Give them some Crayolas or something (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
No one has earned their crayons like the United States Marines have.

13. How new NCOs feel about everyone in their squad (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
No one is standing at parade rest for the guy they were partying with the night before the promotion ceremony.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis hints at secret ‘kinetic’ military options for North Korea

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted that the United States still had military options left for dealing with North Korea, but did not elaborate when asked for details Monday.


Most experts believe that a military strike on North Korea would invite a devastating response from Pyongyang. The city of Seoul, South Korea, home to 25 million, is well within artillery range of the North, which would likely use conventional artillery munitions and chemical weapons.

But, according to Mattis, the Pentagon has a few tricks up its sleeve that wouldn’t involve the decimation of Seoul.

When asked, “is there any military option the U.S. can take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk?” on Monday, Mattis responded, “Yes, there are, but I will not go into details.”

Related: Defense Secretary Mattis explains what war with North Korea would look like

Previously, Mattis said a war with North Korea would “involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” in reference to Seoul.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
A military drill of the Korean People’s Army at an undisclosed location in North Korea | KCNA photo

It’s difficult to understand what the Pentagon could do to stop a North Korean nuclear program, or take out its leader Kim Jong-un, while preventing Pyongyang from fighting back. Artillery, rockets, missiles, and other munitions are scattered throughout the North — many in secret locations — and the Kim regime maintains an ironclad hold on power.

And with every known military option — from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to air strikes — its likely that North Korea would interpret any strike, however limited, “as a prelude to invading or overthrowing the government, even if the United States insists otherwise,” Daryl Press, a scholar of nuclear deterrence at Dartmouth College, told The Atlantic.

Also Read: Mattis boosts troops’ morale with impromptu epic speech

So what does Mattis have in mind? He wouldn’t say, but he did let slip one interesting comment.

“Just to clarify, you said that there were possible military options that would not create a grave risk to Seoul. Are we talking kinetic options as well?” a reporter asked in a follow-up.

“Yes, I don’t want to go into that,” Mattis said, agreeing that his closely-held military option involved kinetic action, a euphemism to describe lethal military force.

President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” in a speech to the United Nations On Tuesday.

“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” Trump said, adding that if Pyongyang didn’t back down, the US would “have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea.”

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US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

Articles

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

China virus deaths top 1,000, senior chinese officials ‘removed’

China has “removed” a number of senior officials over their handling of a novel respiratory virus, state media reported, as the death toll reached more than 1,000.


The National Health Commission reported 108 new fatalities from the coronavirus on February 11, bringing the total death toll in China to 1,016.

There are now a total of 42,638 confirmed coronavirus cases in mainland China as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese health officials.

In Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic, 103 people died and 2,097 new cases were reported, the health commission said early on February 11.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, the Communist Party secretary for the Health Commission of Hubei Province and the head of the health commission were among those who were “removed” following a decision by the province’s party committee — the most senior officials to be sanctioned.

The two will be replaced by the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, Wang Hesheng.

However, removal from a certain position does not necessarily mean the person will be fired, as it can also mean demotion.

China’s most senior medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said numbers of new cases were falling and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” added Zhong, 83, an epidemiologist who won fame for his role in combating an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002-2003.

However, the WHO has said the spread of the pathogen among people who have not been to China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire” and the global community must not let the epidemic get out of control.

Ukraine’s embassy in China said on February 10 that it was sending a chartered plane to Wuhan — the provincial capital of Hubei — to airlift 50 citizens to Kyiv.

Once in Ukraine, the evacuated Ukrainians will be quarantined for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases on a cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew on board quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama has doubled to 135.

Two Ukrainians, a 25-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman who worked in the kitchen of the Diamond Princess ship, have tested positive for the virus aboard the ship. A total of 25 Ukrainians work on the ship.

While visiting a hospital treating infected patients in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10 called the situation in Hubei “still very grave” and that “more decisive measures” were needed to contain the spread of the virus, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

A WHO-led international team of experts landed in Beijing the same day to investigate the epidemic. It is headed by Bruce Aylward who oversaw the organization’s 2014-16 response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

There are 168 labs worldwide that have the technology to diagnose the virus, according to the WHO.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.