September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.
“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”
USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”
Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.
“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”
According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.
“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.
As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.
The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.
Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.
Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.
Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.
“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).
On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.
Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)
“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.
The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.
“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.
Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.
Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)
Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.
“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”
Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.
Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”
SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on August 2, 2020, after returning from a 63-day mission to the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls/NASA)
SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.
On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.
Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.
“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”
“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.
“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.
“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.
The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.
“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.
He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”
“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.
“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.
American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil
Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.
During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.
Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).
Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.
With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”
In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.
Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.
“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.
‘I doubted us, too’
During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.
“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.
He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”
Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”
He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.
But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.
The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.
The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.
These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.
But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.
It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.
The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.
“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”
After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)
“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”
So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.
The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia: The Army has a giant warehouse of war art that includes not just Hitler’s watercolors but also oil paintings by Norman Rockwell.
It might seem like the Army would be the last likely patron of the arts, but the truth is over the last hundred years, the Army has rescued and confiscated a vast collection of art. The collection of captured and commissioned war art features 16,000 paintings, photos and sculptures, and all are sitting inside a climate-controlled football-field-sized museum at Fort Belvoir.
Before being moved to the museum, this treasure trove of art was stashed inside a large warehouse. The collection features work by everyone, from enemy combatants to ordinary soldiers and even Hitler’s watercolors. The collection program initially started during WWI when the Army dispatched eight combat artists to roam the battlefields in Europe and record firsthand experiences of the average soldier.
The combat artists’ renderings would later be used as part of propaganda efforts to drum up support for the war before being collected and filed away in the Army warehouse. Then, during WWII, the Army added to their growing museum with captured Nazi and Fascist propaganda so it might be preserved for future generations. These materials were deemed too controversial for the public at the time, but the Army knew that future historians might find them useful.
Thousands of art pieces were returned to their rightful owners after the war, but the Army held onto anything that showed the Nazi leader or pictured a swastika. Other additions during WWII included historical pieces unrelated to war art that were initially stolen by the Nazis but then reclaimed and returned by the Monuments Men. The Monuments Men were a team of over 400 soldiers and civilians who worked to protect Europe’s cultural heritage, which might have otherwise been lost to the war. The Monuments Men have been the focus of several documentaries and movies, the most recent of which was in 2014 and detailed the challenging experience of discovering the world’s lost art. Thanks to the Monuments Men, some of the great art saves from WWII included the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss.
Of course, the cache at Fort Belvoir isn’t the only reserve of art and historical artifacts that the Army owns. There are collections all across the country under the Library of Congress, Archies, Smithsonian and Park Service stewardship. Most of these collections are tightly sealed and unknown to the public to help balance the compromise between preservation and security. However, Fort Belvoir is an exception to the norm, as the Army has routinely allowed researchers and journalists to come in and take a look.
Now that the Army has an official museum, the collection will be moved there, and access will be open to the public. Of course, that was before the pandemic put a wrench in those plans. The museum is located on 84 acres at Fort Belvoir, about thirty minutes south of Washington, D.C. The main building is approximately 185,000 square feet. It displays selections from the Army Art Collection and artifacts, documents, and images collected over the years. The American public has never seen most of these images, and the Army expects the museum will welcome at least 500,000 people every year. The National Museum of the United States Army is the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and offers visitors a comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. In an ode to our nation’s veterans, the museum will be opening its doors on November 11, 2020. The opening ceremony will be limited to a small group of Army leaders, but the event will be live-streamed, so historians worldwide will be able to witness the historic moment. Free timed tickets are required for entry and available for request through the museum’s website.
Over the last two decades, special-operations forces have become the go-to choice for policymakers and military leaders around the world.
The successes of US and coalition special-operations units in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and in Syria against ISIS have showcased the importance and utility of small teams of highly trained troops.
While the US and its allies have been fighting in the Middle East, the Chinese military has been paying close attention, especially to US special operations. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is increasingly investing resources in its own special-operations forces.
So with everyone gearing up for great power competition, how do Chinese special operations measure up against the US’s and what are the biggest difference between the two?
US special operators
US special-operations units can be divided into unofficial tiers.
Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 would be at the top (Tier 1), followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment, Night Stalkers, MARSOC, and SEAL and Boat Teams (Tier 2), and then the Special Forces Groups (Tier 3). Air Commandos are harder to categorize since they most often augment other units rather than deploy as teams.
It’s important to note that these tiers have more to do with mission sets and funding than with the quality of the troops.
For example, SEAL Team 6 is part of the National Mission Force (the Pentagon’s first responders, in layman’s terms) and has far more money to spend and resources to use than a “vanilla” SEAL team, but both are manned by SEALs.
Chinese special operators
Irregular warfare and special operations have been part of Chinese military culture since the time of Sun Tzu, whose writings highlighted the value of specialized individuals and units in warfare.
However, modern Chinese special operations are fairly new. The first unit, the Special Reconnaissance Group, was established in 1988. In the late 1990s, as part of PLA’s modernization, seven Special Operations Groups of between 1,000 to 2,000 men were created.
Now there is one special-operations brigade-size unit in each of the five theater commands, which are a rough equivalent of the US’s combatant commands.
The Navy’s Jiaolong (Sea Dragons) is probably the most famous Chinese special-operations unit after it successfully recaptured a ship from pirates in the Gulf of Aden and assisted the evacuation of civilians from war-torn Yemen, which became the subject of a Chinese propaganda movie.
All in all, China has between 20,000 and 40,000 special-operations troops of varying quality.
Crucially, Chinese special-operations units have more than doubled in number in the last two decades, showing that Chinese leaders are paying close attention to the high-reward, low-cost characteristics of special-operations units.
Both special but not the same
Since the early 2000s, the PLA has undergone a drastic modernization and professionalization process, transitioning from a mainly conscript force to a smaller, mostly volunteer military, though conscription remains as a policy.
The new force’s main aim is to fight short wars against regional adversaries while having a technological advantage.
Chinese special-operations units, and the PLA as a whole, have gained from that modernization and learned from the example provided by Western special-operations units over the past 60 years, but Chinese forces are still untested in combat.
On the other hand, US special-operations units have amassed an astounding level of combat experience in the last two decades. It’s not uncommon to have operators with double-digit combat deployments and hundreds of real-world operations under their belts.
Chinese special-operations units are also regionally focused and lack a centralized command like the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This could limit their effectiveness and hurt interoperability.
Moreover, Chinese special-operations units lack the dedicated aviation and maritime assets that American commandos have, namely the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Boat Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and the Air Force’s Special Operations Squadrons.
Without specialized insertion platforms, the utility of Chinese commandos is limited and their geographic scope localized. However, according to the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), the PLA is establishing aviation brigades that might resolve some of these asset shortcomings.
Additionally, there is a difference in mission sets.
Chinese special-operations units focus on direct action, special reconnaissance, and counterterrorism. Unlike US commandos, they don’t conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, hostage rescue, civil affairs, and psychological operations.
In a nutshell, in terms of mission sets, Chinese commandos are closer to World War II special-operations units than to modern US special operations. It’s not that they aren’t capable, but their scope is more limited, a reflection of the PLA’s strategic priorities.
But perhaps the biggest and most important difference is the people.
“Humans are more important than hardware,” is one of the five US special-operations “Truths.” Western special operators take pride in their independence and out-of-the-box thinking, which is encouraged if not expected by their leaders.
Units like Delta Force, the SEAL Teams, the Special Forces Groups, and allied units like the Special Air Service (SAS) excel because of their noncommissioned officers. When planning operations, it’s these NCOs who come up with the ideas and approach. Ironically, the British SAS have titled this enlisted-driven process “the Chinese Parliament.”
Conversely, elements of Chinese military culture, in particular the use of conscripts as well as differing views on unit cohesion, pose a significant barrier to small-team independence.
Allegiance to and scrutiny by the Communist Party complicates things further and adds another level of bureaucracy.
China is used to stealing and copying military technology and concepts, which is believed to be behind Beijing’s advances in fighter jets and other weapons. But when it comes to special-operations units, these cultural aspects aren’t easy to mimic.
Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.
Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.
At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”
Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.
Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.
Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.
Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.
Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.
Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).
Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.
In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.
Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.
While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?
In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.
Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.
This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.
So what does this new model of spycraft look like?
For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.
Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.
While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.
An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.
Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).
Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.
It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).
The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.
The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.
Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.
Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?
A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.
I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.
General Carter F. Ham.
My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.
The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?
A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”
But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.
Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.
I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.
For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.
You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”
If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.
Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?
A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.
The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.
That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.
Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.
Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?
A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”
In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.
In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?
The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.
Q: How important is training?
A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.
We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.
There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.
General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.
Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?
A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.
We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.
Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.
Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?
A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.
As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.
When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.
I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.
I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”
Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)
That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.
There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.
Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?
A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”
We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.
In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”
Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.
Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.
This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.
A newly released investigation from a submarine mishap in 2015 that caused some $1 million worth of damage shows that an inexperienced crew was given the go-ahead to complete a tricky return-to-port mission in the dark, despite warnings from the commanding officer that they weren’t ready.
The Ohio-class submarine Georgia ran aground in the predawn hours of Nov. 25, 2015, the day before Thanksgiving, as it prepared to return to port at Kings Bay, Georgia, to replace a failed towed array sonar. While conducting a scheduled pick-up of a new pilot at Fort Clinch, Florida, near the entrance to St. Marys River, which approaches the base, the sub inadvertently exited the channel, then collided with a buoy amid the crew’s efforts to re-orient. The grounding occurred as the crew worked to get clear of the buoy, the investigation shows.
Ultimately, the sub was able to return to port to assess damages, which were mostly cosmetic, save for the ship’s screw propeller, an acoustic tracking device and an electromagnetic log meter that measured the sub’s speed. The Georgia was taken into dry dock in December 2015 for assessment and the costly repairs.
The investigation, which was completed in March 2016 but just released to Military.com this month through a public records request, found that the “excessive speed” of the sub as it approached the pilot pick-up made it more difficult for the crew to control the ship, and that the tugboat carrying the pilot was positioned poorly, making the maneuver more complex.
Ultimately, though, blame for running aground is laid at the feet of the commanding officer. In the wake of the incident, the commander of Georgia’s blue crew, Capt. David Adams, was relieved of his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. Like all submarines in its class, Georgia has two identical crews — a blue and a gold — that alternate manning and patrols.
“His inability to effectively manage the complexity of the situation and failure to respond to the circumstances in a manner sufficient to protect the safety of the ship and crew is beneath my expectations for any CO,” an investigation endorsement by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, reads.
In his detailed and thorough endorsement of findings, Crites also dismisses the notion that maneuvering in the dark and with a green crew was what led to the sub’s disastrous mishap.
“Ultimately, had this crew (and the Pilot) executed the same plan in the same manner during broad daylight, there is nothing in the ship’s planning effort, demonstrated seamanship, or response to tripwires that indicates the outcome would be any different,” he said.
While coming in for the brunt of the blame, Adams was not alone in being designated for punishment. Crites indicated his intent to take administrative action against the sub’s executive officer; chief of boat; navigation/operations officer; weapons officer, who was the officer of the deck; and assistant navigator. He also said he’d issue non-punitive letters of caution to the commander of Submarine Squadron 16 and his own chief of staff and director of operations — all Navy captains — for failure to take appropriate action toward resolution regarding Adams’ concerns around the sub’s transit into port.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) exits the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, following an extended refit period. Georgia is one of two guided-missile submarines stationed at the base and is capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.
The 475-page investigation, which includes witness statements, logs and other supporting documentation, offers insight into what those concerns were. In a Nov. 24 email to the commodore of Squadron 16 marked “confidential,” Adams, the Georgia blue crew commander, lays out his qualms about the plan he has been ordered to execute, particularly the predawn return to port for a brief one-day stop with a crew that had spent just three weeks underway together on a new ship.
“CO/XO/NAV have not piloted into Kings Bay in the last 20 years. All of the untoward [incidents] I know of occurred between [St. Marys] and Fort Clinch,” he wrote. “My assessment is that this is not a prudent plan for [return to port] … Having just been at sea for a few weeks, I have not built enough depth. I am concerned about the fatigue level of my command element.
“Given an all day evolution and subsequent [underway], we will have spent the majority of 36 hours awake and are set to pilot out and submerge on the mid-watch at 0330.”
The two-page memo, it appears, was never received and read by Submarine Squadron 16’s commodore, Capt. John Spencer. But Adams testified he had relayed the same concerns face-to-face with Spencer days before, on Nov. 22. He also discussed the same issues, he said, in a follow-up phone call.
This much is clear: the plan wasn’t called off, and the mission was cleared to proceed. But murky communication dogged the lead-up to the operation, and later the mission itself.
Spencer and others testified that Adams had been given leeway to “slow things down a little” if he felt uncomfortable. Adams said he believed any delay would have been viewed as insubordination.
On the day of the mishap, communication was also flawed, in ways that underscore the crew’s unfamiliarity with each other, and possibly the sleep deprivation that had left some members running on just two to three hours of rest.
According to the investigation, as the Georgia approached the point at which it was to meet with the tug and pick up the pilot — the navigation expert who would drive the ship into port — it became clear that the tug was well west of its expected position. The sub, meanwhile, was approaching too fast and slowing too gradually. The investigation found it was still making 15 knots, or about 17 miles per hour, when it passed the set “all stop” point. That speed and positioning would make every maneuver that followed more risky and difficult.
Initial attempts to communicate with the tug and the pilot aboard via radio were unsuccessful, and the planned transfer happened late. Adams did not want to scrap the transfer and proceed into port without the pilot, the investigation found, because of the challenges of pulling into port without one.
When the sub exited the channel at the west end of the Fort Clinch basin, the crew’s communication skills faced a major test. The assistant navigator recommended to the navigator that the sub go to “all back emergency,” a call the navigator then passed to the bridge. The officer of the deck seemed to agree, but said nothing, the investigation found. Adams, however, overrode the order, believing it would not work, and ordered “all ahead full” instead. He started directing the officer of the deck, but did not fully take control of the sub or give direct orders to the helm, the report states.
Despite a series of maneuvers — right hard rudder, left hard rudder, all ahead full, right hard rudder — the sub collided with Buoy 23 in the channel. But the worst was still to come.
“When [Adams] asked [the lookout] if the ship hit buoy 23, [the lookout] informed the CO that he did not care about the buoy, but thought the ship was going to run aground on the beach forward of the ship,” the investigation states.
As grounding looked imminent, the Georgia asked the driver of the C-tractor tugboat if the tug could cross in front of the sub on the starboard, or right, side, and push the bow around. The tug master refused, according to the investigation, worried that the water was too shallow.
The sub ended up, as the lookout put it, “hitting Fort Clinch.”
In this file photo from July 12, 2018, Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), views the dry dock at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. The base is home to six of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines that make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad and support strategic deterrence.
The mishap, and the misgivings that preceded it, came against the backdrop of a Navy grappling with a culture in which overworked and unready crews were regularly put underway in service of operational needs. After two separate deadly destroyer collisions in 2017, service leaders found, among other things, that a “‘can-do’ culture” had undermined safety and led to unduly high operational tempo and fatigue.
“The can-do culture becomes a barrier to success only when directed from the top down or when feedback is limited or missed,” the Navy’s comprehensive review of the destroyer mishaps, released in October 2017, found.
Whether these factors came into play with the Georgia is more difficult to say.
In a statement for the investigation, Adams emphasized that he took full responsibility for what had transpired.
“Despite my significant reservation – expressed face-to-face, on the phone, and In emails with staff and leadership … concerning the risks of proceeding Into Kings Bay In the dark with an inexperienced team, when my requests to delay [return to port] one hour later were denied, I failed in my command responsibilities by driving to achieve mission success at the expense of appropriately acting to mitigate risks to increase our margin of safety,” he said.
“In retrospect, I should have loitered at [St. Marys] until I was satisfied that the risks were commensurate with the mission gain.”
Reached for comment by Military.com, Adams, who retired in 2016, referred to a public statement he had released at the time of his relief, in which he called the actions that caused the grounding “mine alone.”
“I ask that my lapses not be used to denigrate the terrific service of the Sailors and families of GEORGIA BLUE,” he said at the time “After thirty years of serving in the world’s finest Navy, my only regret is that I will miss sailing with them again to stand against our nation’s enemies.”
But the fact that some above Adams were also warned offers insight into how the higher command viewed the incident.
Crites faulted Spencer, the Squadron 16 commodore, with “failure to provide his ship a plan with adequate margin to safety, specifically in not providing sufficient guidance and training to his staff that developed the plan in his absence and not aggressively pursuing complete resolution of the ship’s requested arriva through personal intervention with the Type Commander staff.”
The chief of staff and director of operations for Submarine Group 10, Crites said in the report, had failed to “pursue acceptable resolution to the concerns they had with the plan for the ship’s arrival.”
Holly Carey, deputy public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic, declined to say whether all administrative actions recommended by the investigation were carried out.
“What I can tell you is that the Navy is confident that leadership took appropriate corrective actions against several personnel assigned to the squadron and submarine based on the findings of the investigation,” she said.
“Following the investigation, which concluded in 2016, leadership took appropriate accountability measures and has taken all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence in the future. USS Georgia, and her current crew, serve proudly today among the U.S. Submarine Force and has leadership’s full confidence to protect the interest of the United State and allies.”
Getting a website with a .gov domain can be as easy as telling the government you’re a small-town mayor and filling out an online form.
According to a new report from cybersecurity watchdog Brian Krebs, someone was able to get a .gov domain by impersonating a small-town mayor using information he found online. The person used a fake Google Voice number and fake Gmail address, both of which reportedly cleared the government’s authorization process.
“I assumed there would be at least ID verification. The deepest research I needed to do was Yellow Pages records,” the unnamed source told Krebs.
A spokesperson for the US General Services Administration, which is in charge of issuing .gov domains, said in a statement to Business Insider that it was investigating the issue and couldn’t comment on open investigations.
In a separate statement to Business Insider, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said protecting the integrity of the .gov domain from fraudsters is “critical” to national security. CISA is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, and a CISA spokesperson said that the agency has asked to take over control of authorizing .gov domains from the GSA.
“The .gov top-level domain (TLD) is critical infrastructure for thousands of federal, state and local government organizations across the country,” the CISA spokesperson said. “Its use by these institutions should instill trust. In order to increase the security of all US-based government organizations, CISA is seeking the authority to manage the .gov TLD and assume governance from the General Services Administration.”
Once the person obtained a fraudulent .gov domain, they were also able to access Facebook’s law enforcement subpoena system, which allows government agencies to request personal information on Facebook users, screenshots obtained by Krebs show. A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Tom Cruise attended the ceremony virtually (U.S. Navy)
Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.
Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)
The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.
On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:
In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.
Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)
Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.
In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers that the emerging Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system, established for Poland and Romania, could also now possibly help protect U.S. Pacific theater assets and allies from possible Chinese or North Korean attacks.
“We are looking at Aegis Ashore to protect our Pacific areas,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee, suggesting a fixed site could augment existing BMD-capable Navy ships on patrol in the region.
Aegis Ashore technology builds upon the success of Aegis missile defense at-sea by establishing land sites that can detect and destroy incoming enemy ballistic missile attacks. An Aegis Ashore site became operational in Romania in 2015, and another is slated to stand up in Poland sometime later this year. The system uses Aegis radar in tandem with SM-3 interceptor missiles to track and destroy ballistic missile attacks.
Adding a land-based Aegis BMD technology brings a potential range and target envelope advantage, as it could defend areas less reachable to Navy ships. While ship-fired Aegis BMD does have quite a range and is able to destroy approaching threats from beyond the earth’s atmosphere, a land site could naturally, in some circumstances, preclude a need for Aegis BMD capable ships from needing to patrol certain areas at certain times.
Thus far, going back to the Pentagon’s previously established European Phased Adaptive Approach Aegis Ashore has primarily been oriented toward protecting the European continent from potential future ballistic missile threats such as Russia and Iran, among others. Secretary Mattis is now suggesting the shore-based SM-3 interceptors could migrate to Aegis as a compliment to the existing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon now protecting the region.
The prospect for Aegis Ashore in the Pacific emerged during a HASC hearing on the Pentagon’s newly released Nuclear Posture Review when Guam Congresswoman Rep. Madeleine Bordallo asked Mattis about plans to protect assets based in Guam such as B-2, B-52 and B-1 bombers.
“Guam holds vital strategic bases to aid our defense, and in your strategy, you call for investment in layered missile defense,” Bordallo said.
Bordallo’s concern resonates alongside of the consistently discussed threat that North Korean short and intermediate range ballistic missiles pose to the region; it is often cited as a reason to hesitate about striking North Korea given the knowledge that the North would be expected to immediately fire its arsenal of missiles toward South Korea and Guam.
It was in response to this that Mattis raised the prospect of bringing Aegis Ashore to the Pacific to, along with THAAD and Navy Aegis BMD ships, provide the layered defense system Bordallo referred to.
Missile Defense Agency developers explain that the Aegis Ashore program, which has been successful thus far, is preparing to fire a longer-range and more advanced SM-3 IIA missile for the first time in coming months.
A follow on to the SM-3, the SM-3 IIA is a larger and more high-tech interceptor missile able to destroy threatening targets at longer ranges; the weapon, being developed as part of a cooperative arrangement between the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Japan, is designed to work in tandem with Aegis radar systems to track and destroy approaching enemy missiles – by knocking them out of the sky.
Aegis radar works by sending electromagnetic “pings” into space to identify the location and trajectory of an approaching missile threat – and then works with an integrated fire control system to guide the SM-3 interceptor to its target, with the intent of destroying it or knocking it out of the sky.
At sea, integrated technologies and electronics on the ship, including fire control systems, link information from the Aegis radar with a ship’s vertical launch tubes able to fire out SM-3 interceptor missiles.
In existence since 2004, Aegis BMD is now operating on 28 Navy ships and with a number of allied nations. U.S. allies with Aegis capability include the Japan Self Defense Forces, Spanish Navy, the South Korean Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Italy, Denmark and others, MDA officials said.
Using various guidance technologies, the SM-3 flies up into space to destroy approaching ballistic missile threats. The SM-3 missile uses an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and an upgraded steering and propulsion capability, Raytheon weapons developers have told Warrior Maven. These technologies use short bursts of precision propulsion to direct the missile toward incoming targets, they added.
A Missile Defense Agency official told Warrior Maven that “the SM-3 Block IIA missile is a larger version of the SM-3 IB in terms of boosters and the kinetic warhead, which allows for increased operating time. The second and third stage boosters on the SM-IIA are 21″ in diameter, allowing for longer flight times and engagements of threats higher in the exo-atmosphere.”
The Pentagon is hoping to increase production quantities of the SM-3 IIA as well; they are waiting to see whether Congress succeeds in allocating additional funding for the missiles.
SM-3 IIA Technology
Now that it is being prepared for Aegis Ashore, it seems clear that a longer-range SM-3 IIA weapon could prove relevant in any defense against North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attacks. The Missile Defense Agency and Raytheon have configured the emerging SM-3 IIA missile with a more “sensitive” seeker and software designed to accommodate new threat information.
Amy Cohen, SM-3 Program Director, told Warrior Maven in an interview a few weeks ago that the SM-3 IIA program is on track.
“We’ve also brought in some capability advancements into our kinetic warhead, so we now have higher sensitivity,” Cohen explained.
By adding new software, industry developers create the technical framework necessary to upgrade or “reprogram” new threat information into the missile over time, Cohen explained.
“We can improve the performance through software algorithms. We are not only able to increase the threat space but bring in new threats as they emerge through software upgrades,” Cohen added. “We work with the MDA to define how we’re going to make improvements and what threats we want to incorporate.”
The SM-3 IIA also incorporates sensor technology improvements designed to enable the missile to see or detect targets farther into space, developers explained.
The SM-3 is a kinetic energy warhead able to travel at more than 600 miles per hour; it carries no explosive, but instead relies on the sheer force of impact and collision to destroy an enemy target. While many details of the advanced seeker are not available, Cohen did say it includes infrared technology.
“We can see a threat that we are engaging much sooner. As soon as we open our eyes, we can see threats much earlier and we have the ability to track them. This helps us with how we need to maneuver the kinetic warhead to ensure that we have a kinetic engagement with the threats that we are flying against,” Cohen added.
The Aegis ashore deckhouse in Romania was engineered with Aegis BMD Weapons System 5.0 — an integrated suite of technologies which provide multi-mission signal processing capability, Lockheed officials said.
For instance, the multi-mode signal processor provides the ability to simultaneously track air and cruise missile threats as well as ballistic missile threats, officials added.
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes a long-term plan that could put nuclear cruise missiles aboard the new Zumwalt class (DDG 1000) of stealthy Navy destroyers, according to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, StratCom chief, said the plan to develop a new, low-yield nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM, or “Slick-em”) would not be limited to using ballistic submarines as the sole launch platform, as many assumed when the NPR was endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early February 2018.
“It’s important to know that the NPR, when it talks about the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, does not say ‘Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile,’ ” Hyten said in a Feb. 16, 2018 keynote address in Washington, D.C., at the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
In response to questions, he said, “We want to look at a number of options — everything from surface DDG 1000s into submarines, different types of submarines” for the SLCMs.
“That’s what the president’s budget has requested of us — to go look at those platforms, and we’re going to walk down that path,” Hyten said.
The USS Zumwalt, the first of three new stealthy destroyers billed by the Navy as the world’s largest and most technologically advanced surface combatants, experienced numerous cost overruns in construction and problems in sea trials. It also broke down while transiting the Panama Canal in 2016.
The second ship in the Zumwalt class, the Michael Monsoor, had to cut short sea trials in December 2017 because of equipment failures.
The NPR called for the development of two new, low-yield nuclear weapons — the SCLM and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Hyten said the U.S. will be modifying “a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a prompt, low-yield capability, as well as pursuing a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile in the longer term.”
He added, with some regret, that both are necessary to enhance U.S. deterrence against growing tactical and strategic nuclear threats from Russia and China.
“I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was,” he said. “We, as a nation, have long desired a world with no or at least fewer nuclear weapons. That is my desire as well. The world, however, has not followed that path.”
New developments with the Xian H6K strategic bomber, a version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber, has given China a nuclear triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines “for the first time,” Hyten said.
He also cited repeated statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin about modernizing his own nuclear force and developing a new generation of low-yield weapons. “Russia has been clear about their intent all along,” he said.
In the question-and-answer period at National Defense University, an official from the Russian Embassy in Washington challenged the general’s assessment of the threat posed by his country.
Hyten responded, “We listen very closely to what your president says, and then watch closely” through a variety of means to see Putin’s thoughts put into action. “We have to consider those a threat.”
Earlier, he said, “Our adversaries are building and operating these strategic weapons, not as a science experiment, but as a direct threat to the United States of America.”
In an address preceding Hyten’s, Pentagon policy chief David Trachtenberg said that the new NPR developed for the Trump administration should not be seen as a divergence from the 2010 NPR adopted by the Obama administration.
“Contrary to some commentary, the Nuclear Posture Review does not go beyond the 2010 NPR in expanding the traditional role of nuclear weapons,” said Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
“The goal of our recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed, and the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”
However, “it is clear that our attempts to lead by example in reducing the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons in the world have not been reciprocated,” Trachtenberg said.
Russia and China have made clear their intentions to “expand the numbers and capabilities” of their nuclear arsenals, he said.