Austin-class amphibious transport docks are old. The Ponce, the youngest ship in the class, was commissioned in 1971.
Still, they remain very capable vessels. According to a Navy fact sheet, they can carry up to 900 troops, two air-cushion landing craft, or a single landing craft utility. The vessels can also carry a half-dozen helicopters.
With this sort of capability, some retired Royal Navy officers are concerned. Among them is retired Adm. Lord West.
“Such a ship is an offensive weapon and could play a significant role as part of an invading force. It is more unfortunate that this is happening as we are about to lose HMS Ocean from service without a direct replacement,” he told the Daily Mail, referring to the amphibious assault ship capable of holding 18 helicopters, including Apache attack helicopters and Merlin, Sea King, and Lynx transport helicopters.
The Argentineans reportedly tried to close the deal with the U.S. while Vice President Mike Pence was visiting the South American country. While the deal has not gone through yet, the implications for the United Kingdom are significant.
“The British would have to increase their protection of the Falklands in light of Argentina acquiring an amphibious assault ship,” John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org told the Daily Mail.
As COVID-19 spreads across the planet, humanity faces a difficult and deadly trial. Here in the U.S., the best science available predicts hundreds of thousands of Americans will contract the disease. Government officials have already reported that thousands of patients with COVID-19 have died and projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will eventually die from the virus.
Facing this grim diagnosis will bring out the best in the American people. Character is displayed under pressure. We’re under pressure, and America’s character is strong. We have the discipline and determination to do what is right for our families and communities, even when it is difficult. We have the caring and compassion to help those who are suffering. We have ingenious entrepreneurs and innovative tools – including the ability to gather and process large amounts of data.
And we have the wisdom to know that our character must guide how we use tools, including data-gathering tools, to help us overcome this monumental challenge.
Countries around the world are combatting the spread of coronavirus by collecting and using the location of peoples’ smartphones. This government use of location data – i.e., surveillance – appears to be a powerful tool in the fight against the disease, but also raises a host of privacy concerns. The U.S. shouldn’t blindly copy other countries’ practices. Instead, we can and should find ways to harness the power of big data to protect public health while also protecting the rights of all Americans.
Governments use location data to combat COVID-19 in two ways. They use it for “contact tracing,” to identify all the people a sick person has encountered. Most do this by assembling a massive database of the movements of every person, sick or healthy. South Korea has been especially aggressive on this front, collecting data from infected citizens’ credit cards, GPS systems, and cellphones to determine their location and interactions with other citizens. Singapore has created an app that collects information about nearby phones over Bluetooth, focusing on who the user has been near, rather than where. No comprehensive database of locations is required.
The other purpose for which countries are using location data is to enforce social distancing or quarantine requirements. The South Korean government mandates that quarantined individuals download an app that tracks their location, enabling the government to detect when individuals break their quarantine restrictions. Governments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Russia also use smartphone apps, geofencing, and facial-recognition technology to enforcequarantine restrictions on individuals.
While we don’t have comprehensive data on the effectiveness of these various approaches, it does appear that digital surveillance can help governments “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.
But when governments use these tools, they do so at the cost of their citizens’ privacy. This tradeoff is not surprising. Because information about people is useful for many purposes, tradeoffs between privacy and other values are common. Privacy values often clash with openness, competition, and innovation. But rarely are the tradeoffs so dramatic.
Calibrating these tradeoffs in advance is difficult. There is evidence that existing U.S. privacy laws hindered the use of valuable medical information, slowing the initial response to the virus. Specifically, university researchers in Washington state were delayed by weeks in their efforts to repurpose already-gathered patient data to study the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This is one reason laws that restrict private sector use of data should allow beneficial uses, including using data to improve health and save lives.
But even when fighting real, tangible harms like death and disease, unwarranted government surveillance without due process unacceptably threatens liberty. That’s why our Constitution and our values limit what government can do even when pursuing important goals. These privacy-protecting institutions are our country’s antibodies against government overreach and abuse.
Fortunately, we don’t have to give up our liberties to use big data tools in the fight against COVID-19. Rather than assemble giant databases of personal information like South Korea or China has, U.S. government public health experts should use anonymized location data not linked to individuals. Such data can help researchers assess how well populations are practicing social distancing, identify hotspots of activity that raise the risk of spreading the disease, and study how the disease has spread. (Reports indicate that health officials are already using anonymized mobile advertising data for these purposes and some private companies are offering free-to-use tools to help decisionmakers). We should also explore decentralized approaches to contact tracing, like the Singaporean app. Civic-minded individuals who want to volunteer their data for research purposes should be encouraged to do so, perhaps through public education campaigns.
In any case, U.S. health officials must protect our privacy by ensuring that any data collected for use in this current health crisis isn’t repurposed for other government uses. And both businesses and governments involved in this effort must tell the public how data is being collected, shared, and used.
The U.S. has the world’s best innovators in using data to improve Americans’ lives. We can, and should, empower those innovators to fight the spread of COVID-19 consistent with our strong American values and character.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.
As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.
But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.
“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”
The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.
Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.
Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.
When and how to transition
In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.
The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.
Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.
Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.
“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”
During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.
“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.
Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.
“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.
Keeping the fleet comfortable
As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.
Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.
Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.
For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.
Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.
“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”
The algorithms that played a major role in allowing a supermassive black hole to be photographed for the first time were largely designed three years ago by a graduate student in her 20s.
Katie Bouman, now 29, was studying computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she worked at the school’s Haystack Observatory.
Scientists published the first image of a black hole. The image captured Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87.
(Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)
In the search for a way to capture an image of the black hole, located 55 million light-years away in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, astronomers at MIT took part in the Event Horizon Telescope project, but they faced a serious problem.
They needed to stitch together millions of gigabytes’ worth of data captured by telescopes located all over the world.
Bouman had the solution: Find a way to stitch the data about the black hole together pixel by pixel.
“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,”Bouman told CNN.
“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them.”
“If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”
Vincent Fish, a scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, told CNN that Bouman was “a major part of one of the imaging subteams.”
Fish told CNN that senior scientists worked on the project too, but the specific task of imaging the black hole was predominantly run by junior researchers like Bouman.
“One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images,” Fish said.
“Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone, they have certain properties.” He added: “If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it.”
CNN reported that Bouman would begin teaching as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology in the fall.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Ultimate Fighting Championship hall-of-famer Forrest Griffin was in the octagon, he knew who to turn to when a pummeling led to lacerations — Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman Dr. (Col.) Gregory Hsu.
That’s because Hsu, who serves as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the U.S. Pacific Air Forces surgeon general, is a highly experienced ophthalmologist and plastic surgeon with over 24 years of experience.
Hsu is a solo-practitioner in Las Vegas and has operated his own eye clinic for the past two decades. As a doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye, he has to be at the top of his game when it comes to patching his patient’s faces after their treatment.
That skill, said Griffin, is what makes Hsu so valuable to the UFC and its fighters. When someone gets cut in a fight, that wound has to be closed up in such a way that it doesn’t open back up or form scar tissue, which leaves the skin susceptible to opening up in the future.
The UFC is a popular mixed martial arts fighting organization started in 1993. According to the UFC website, fighters must be skilled in many forms of hand-to-hand combat, including jiu-jitsu, karate and boxing. It produces more than 40 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider, broadcasting in 129 countries, 28 languages and reaching 800 million households.
Hsu’s and Griffin’s UFC histories are tightly intertwined. Griffin was a contestant on season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show in 2005; a top contender for season champ and a spot in the UFC. In the penultimate fight, he received a cut severe enough that the safety commission wanted to disqualify him from the final fight. That’s when Hsu got the call.
“I knew the [chief financial officer] of The Ultimate Fighter and he asked if I could do a suture job that would hold up through the fight,” said Hsu.
Hsu closed the wound to the satisfaction of the safety board and Griffin went on to win the final fight and earn a spot in the UFC at a time when the fighting format was exploding in popularity. Today, Griffin is retired from fighting but he continues with the organization, serving as the vice president of athletic development at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
Like Griffin, Hsu continues to work for the organization, supporting both the reality TV series, which is carried on Fox Sports 1, and eight to 10 major UFC events each year.
When Hsu is not stitching fighters or running his eye clinic, he serves his country as the IMA to the U.S. Pacific Air Forces surgeon general. The doctor said he was a late-comer to the military but joined because he wanted to give back to his country. He originally joined the Nevada Air National Guard but later switched to the Air Force Reserve, becoming a traditional reservist at the Nellis Air Force Base clinic. However, after being selected for promotion to colonel, he had to look for a position that would match his new grade. In 2015 he applied for his current position as an IMA. He was hired and promoted to his current rank.
Hsu said moving to the IMA program, where he can directly support the active-duty Air Force, has been a great ride, but working the budget, manpower and policy side of operations was a new experience for him.
“Integrating guidance to best meet the needs of PACAF down to the Airman, and seeing how we promote and deliver care, was an eye opening experience,” he added.
IMAs are Air Force Reserve Airmen assigned to augment active-component military organizations and government agencies. They have participation requirements similar to members in the traditional reserve. However, most IMAs perform all of their required annual duty all at once; 24 to 36 days per year, depending on the assignment.
In 2017, Hsu used his duty time to represent the PACAF surgeon general at exercise Talisman Sabre 2017, a joint training activity with the Australian military.
“It was like lifting the hood of a car to see a new aspect of how it works,” he said of the experience that had him operating alongside Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, as well as Australian forces.
Hsu said it can be a balancing act to serve with the Air Force while also managing his business, UFC gig and family, but ultimately he loves being in uniform and helping to get the mission done.
The balancing act is something Hsu excels at. Griffin said he didn’t even know Hsu was in the Air Force until once when Doc, as the fighters call him, wasn’t at a fight.
“I asked where he was and he was at some sort of crazy exercise,” said the former fighter.
The doctor said he provides two primary services that keep the UFC fighters happy. First, good-quality plastic surgery keeps them healthy and returns them to the fight faster. Second, is the ability to skip a lengthy emergency room visit, allowing injured fighters to participate in press conferences, meet with fans and be a part of the post-fight buzz.
Hsu said it can be intimidating dealing with the fighters, especially following a loss when “you can cut the depression with a knife” or the fighter can’t calm down. But, with fighters sometimes lining up four to five deep, his presence is definitely needed.
The cuts are not typical for what he would see in his clinic. Hsu described them as challenging.
“Sometimes it takes me an hour to work on these guys,” he said. “The cuts are from gloves, knees, hands, they’re not the same as planned cuts in surgery.”
The worst injury Hsu said he handled was after a fight between Tito Ortiz and Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Ortiz came out of the fight with a ripped eyelid and eyebrow and had to spend 45 minutes in Hsu’s suture room having it repaired.
“He didn’t care about his face, he was just pissed that he lost,” said Hsu, adding that his efforts ensured there was no permanent disfigurement from the injury.
As the sport has grown more professional, so have the demands on Hsu. Originally, the fighters were grateful for the quality, ring-side medical care. Now, with publicity, sponsorship and announcing jobs, Hsu said it’s also important for the fighters to come off the operating table looking good.
Griffin noted that Hsu has been a huge part of UFC, working the biggest shows of the year and taking care of stitches and any eye-related injuries.
“Post-fight medical care is one thing we really care about,” said Griffin. “It lets our fighters get back to training and fighting as soon as possible.”
Hsu, who knows most of the fighters personally, said they ask him to take good care of their faces.
“My work has to be perfect; everything, every time,” he said, adding “I love it, it’s a great ride.”
The Air Force announced the return of several key Tyndall Air Force Base missions, as the base begins its long-term recovery following Hurricane Michael.
“We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Vice President Mike Pence while at the north Florida base Oct. 25, 2018.
A number of important missions will resume at Tyndall AFB in the next few months and others will shift to other locations for the time being. All but approximately 500 airmen will return to the Florida panhandle within 1 to 3 months.
“We are focused on taking care of our airmen and their families and ensuring the resumption of operations. These decisions were important first steps to provide stability and certainty,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “We’re working hard to return their lives to normalcy as quickly as possible.”
Units that will resume operations at Tyndall AFB:
• The 601st Air Force Operations Center will resume operations no later than Jan. 1, 2019. • The 337th Air Control Squadron will resume air battle manager training at a reduced rate by Jan. 1, 2019. A full production rate is expected no later than summer 2019. • Air Force Medical Agency Support team will continue their mission of medical facility oversight. • Air Force Office of Special Investigations will continue their mission from usable facilities. • 53rd Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation Group will remain at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Legal Operations Agency will continue their mission from a usable facility at Tyndall AFB. • Air Force recruiters will continue their mission from local area offices in the Panama City, Florida, area. • The 823rd Red Horse Squadron, Detachment 1, will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Civil Engineer Center will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB.
The courtyard of a student housing complex sits flooded with water and debris following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018.
Units to be located at Eglin AFB, Florida, with reachback to Tyndall AFB:
• The 43rd and 2nd Fighter Squadrons’ F-22 Fighter Training and T-38 Adversary Training Units will relocate operations to Eglin AFB. Academic and simulator facilities at Tyndall AFB will be used to support training requirements, as well as Tyndall AFB’s surviving low observable maintenance facilities. • The 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 4, will relocate with the F-22 Fighter Training Units to Eglin AFB.
Units with insufficient infrastructure to resume operations at Tyndall AFB at this time:
• Personnel and F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron will relocate to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. • The Noncommissioned Officer Academy will temporarily disperse across four locations: McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee; Maxwell AFB – Gunter Annex, Alabama; Keesler AFB, Mississippi; and Sheppard AFB, Texas.
The Air Force is taking great care to ensure airmen and their families are supported when they return to the base. Officials are working to identify specific airmen required to remain at Tyndall AFB for mission needs or to assist with the longer-term recovery of the base.
“By the winter holidays and in many cases well before, we expect all our airmen — military and civilians — to have certainty about their options, so that everyone is either on a path or already settled,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
“The strength of Tyndall (AFB) comes from its airmen and their families. It will take us a while to restore buildings and infrastructure, but returning our airmen and their combat missions to full strength — at Tyndall or somewhere else in the interim — will happen quickly,” he added.
As details are worked out, affected airmen will be contacted by their chain of command or the Air Force Personnel Center. In the meantime, airmen should continue to monitor the Tyndall AFB Facebook page and the Air Force Personnel Center website for additional details as they become available.
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:
After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.
Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.
Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.
The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.
After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”
The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.
In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.
Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.
MOSCOW — You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers.
Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree.
According to the business daily Vedomosti, contracts exceeding 2 billion rubles ($29 million) have been signed for the procurement and installation in schools across Russia of surveillance cameras linked to a system that has facial-recognition capability and is called Orwell, after the British author of dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm.
The company tasked with executing the project on behalf of regional governments is the National Center of Informatization (NCI), a subsidiary of state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec, Vedomosti reported on June 15.
The video surveillance systems have been delivered to 1,608 schools across Russia, an unnamed representative of the company told the newspaper, adding that the equipment was intended to keep tabs on students’ comings and goings and identify strangers who attempt to enter school grounds, among other things.
Elvis-Neotech, a subsidiary of state nanotechnology company Rosnano, is responsible for preparing the systems for sale, according to Yevgeny Lapshev, a representative of that company. Lapshev told Vedomosti that the Orwell system will become a security feature in all of Russia’s schools in the coming years — more than 43,000 in all.
On June 16, the media outlet RBK cited an anonymous NCI representative who disputed aspects of the Vedomosti report, saying that the company had not signed contracts for the delivery of video equipment to 43,000 schools.
The representative told RBK that NCI had taken part in a pilot program to equip 1,600 Russian schools with video surveillance systems that were not equipped with facial recognition, and that a decision on expanding the program to all Russian schools was yet to be made.
The reported plans come after a rise in recent years in violent incidents at Russian schools, including a spate of stabbings in late 2017 and early 2018 that prompted renewed calls from lawmakers for increased security measures and strict monitoring of visitors.
“The requirements for training and certifying employees of private security organizations, especially those guarding schools and kindergartens, must be as strict as possible,” Vasily Piskarev, chairman of parliament’s Committee on Security and Corruption Control, said after a knife incident in October 2019.
But amid the push to expand monitoring capabilities and beef up security at schools, rights activists in Russia are warning that facial recognition and other surveillance technologies are being used much more widely and with minimal oversight, leading to a curtailment of freedom of speech and movement and ultimately toward a loss of data privacy.
Since March, when Russia’s coronavirus epidemic began, the authorities have used facial-recognition technology to identify and fine quarantine violators, deploying — in Moscow alone — a network of over 100,000 cameras that link to a central database accessible to thousands of law enforcement officials at any time.
In addition, a range of smartphone apps and digital passes unveiled since March — some of which remain mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms despite the lifting on June 9 of many lockdown restrictions — have prompted fears among data-privacy campaigners that those and other new digital tools may integrate into a ratcheted-up, post-pandemic surveillance apparatus.
Alyona Popova, an activist who launched a lawsuit in October 2019 against Moscow’s use of facial-recognition cameras, warned that “under the guise of fighting the coronavirus,” officials are working to implement “total surveillance.”
Last fall, Russia’s Education Ministry clarified the criteria under which facial recognition could be used in schools. All parties, including school employees and the parents of students, would have to give permission, the newspaper Izvestia quoted an official as saying.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.
U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.
Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.
An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.
The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.
U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.
A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.
A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.
It’s no surprise that troops love football and this year’s Super Bowl showed the military some love right back. Nearly everything, from the pre-show to the coin toss to the USAA Salute to Service Lounge, showed appreciation and respect to all those who have and are currently serving our nation.
Here are the highlights:
7th Annual NFL Honors
The night before the big game, Marine Corps veteran and comedian Rob Riggle hosted the 7th annual NFL Honors. Throughout his opening monologue, where he took priceless jabs at players, he wore an Honor Ring on his right index finger. The 22Kill Honor Ring is a black band, worn on the index finger, and a symbol of support and empowerment for the all military veterans seeking mental health treatment.
It serves as a reminder to us all of the estimated 18-22 veterans who commit suicide every day. While there is hope — these numbers are in decline — the ring Rob Riggle wore shows that the mission will continue until that number reaches zero.
Thankfully for everyone involved, Riggle kept his “Lt. Col. Knifehand” sheathed. (Screengrab via NFL YouTube)
2017 Salute to Service Award
At the Gala, a panel of prior recipients and USAA members recognized members of the NFL community for their contributions to the Armed Forces.
This year’s recipient of the 2017 Salute to Service Award is Andre Roberts, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons. Roberts is the son of two Army veterans and played for The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He was recognized for his many visits to VA hospitals, off-season travel to military installations, and his dedication to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). His coach, Dan Quinn, received the award last year.
The National Anthem
American singer-songwriter Pink performed a beautiful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and was accompanied by The President’s Own United States Marine Band and the Joint Service Color Guard from the Military District of Washington. The Philadelphia native came down with the flu earlier in the day, but she still channeled her inner Whitney Houston.
The most impressive addition to the National Anthem was flyover by the United States Air Force Heritage Flight. The Heritage Flight serves as the Air Force’s demonstration team and performs breathtaking maneuvers all across the country. This time, it was over the frigid Minneapolis sunset. All this and every single player stood with their hand over their heart.
The coin toss is a prestigious ceremony that is often reserved for presidents, NFL Hall of Fame players, and other such famous guests. This year, the toss was performed by Woody Williams, a WWII Marine who acted with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was accompanied by fourteen other Medal of Honor recipients — ten from the Vietnam War and four from the Global War on Terrorism.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said,
The NFL is proud to honor our Nation’s heroes at Super Bowl LII. These courageous individuals deserve to be recognized on America’s biggest stage. We are grateful for their service to our country and we are pleased to continue the NFL’s longstanding tradition of hosting special tributes to service members at the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots won the coin toss and deferred to the Philadelphia Eagles — it was time to play.
Even those who don’t care about sports still tuned in for the commercials. While everyone waited for the newest Star Wars and Avengers commercials, for the first time in 30 years, the USMC surprised viewers by airing its newest Marine Corps recruitment commercial during the Super Bowl — you might’ve missed it, though.
The ad didn’t air on television, but rather to everyone viewing from a computer or mobile device. Since most views between 18 and 24 intake most of their content through the internet as opposed to television, it was targeted perfectly to prospective recruits.
USAA teamed up with the NFL to offer current former military members discounted tickets to the Super Bowl Experience at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The experience was an interactive NFL theme park that completely filled a 30,000-foot retail space. As part of this massive event, USAA invited current military, veterans, and their families to visit an exclusive Salute to Service Military Appreciation Lounge on Saturday.
USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge was the only stop of its kind during the entire Super Bowl weekend, allowing those who came by the chance to meet some of their favorite NFL personalities, get signed memorabilia, and listen to NFL stars talk about their experiences in football and with the military.
The U.S. Army is investing $72 million in a five-year artificial intelligence fundamental research effort to research and discover capabilities that would significantly enhance mission effectiveness across the Army by augmenting soldiers, optimizing operations, increasing readiness, and reducing casualties.
Today, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army’s corporate laboratory (ARL), announced that Carnegie Mellon University will lead a consortium of multiple universities to work in collaboration with the Army lab to accelerate research and development of advanced algorithms, autonomy and artificial intelligence to enhance national security and defense. By integrating transformational research from top academic institutions across the US with the operational expertise and mission-focused research from within CCDC, the Army will be able to drastically accelerate the impact of Battlefield AI.
“Tackling difficult science and technology challenges is rarely done alone and there is no greater challenge or opportunity facing the Army than Artificial Intelligence,” said Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the Army’s corporate laboratory. “That’s why ARL is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, which will lead a consortium of universities to study AI. The Army is looking forward to making great advances in AI research to ensure readiness today and to enhance the Army’s modernization priorities for the future.”
(U.S. Dept of Defense photo by Peggy Frierson)
This Cooperative Agreement for fundamental research was formed as a result of collaboration that initially started between the Army Research Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon under ARL’s “Open Campus” initiative, which Carnegie Mellon joined earlier in 2018. Carnegie Mellon and the team of academic research institutions will focus on fundamental research to develop robust operational AI solutions to enable autonomous processing, exploitation, and dissemination of intelligence and other critical, operational, decision-support activities, and to support the increased integration of autonomy and robotics as part of highly effective human-machine teams.
“For almost 30 years, the Army Research Laboratory has been at the forefront of bold initiatives that foster greater collaboration with U.S. universities,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “At this time of accelerating innovation, Carnegie Mellon is eager to partner with ARL and with universities across the nation to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and better serve the Army mission in the 21st century.”
In support of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), AI is a “crucial technology to enhance situational awareness and accelerate the realization of timely and actionable information that can save lives,” said Andrew Ladas, who leads ARL’s Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute (A2I2). Through this work, he said researchers expect to achieve automated sense making, or the ability for AI to recognize scenes and generate real-time, actionable correlations, insights and information for humans.
An adversary with AI capabilities could mean new threats to military platforms including human-in-the-loop platforms, or technologies that require human interaction, and autonomous platforms.
“The changing complexity of future conflict will present never-seen-before situations wrought with noisy, incomplete and deceptive tactics designed to defeat AI algorithms,” said Ladas. “Success in this battlefield intelligence race will be achieved by increasing AI capabilities as well as uncovering unique and effective ways to merge AI with soldier knowledge and intelligence.”
For the Army, advances in fundamental research in AI will enable distributed shared understanding and autonomous maneuver, and facilitate human-AI teaming that can jointly and rapidly respond to dynamic adversarial events while retaining human-like adaption; adversarial learning to defeat the enemy’s AI; autonomous networking that adapts to electromagnetic/cyber events; analytics that rapidly learn/reason for situational awareness with uncertain/conflicting data; and autonomous maneuver/teaming behavior and decision-making that increases survivability in a highly contested environment.