The Blast Pelvic Protector resembles a pair of loose-fitting shorts designed to wear over the Army Combat Uniform trousers. The device is intended to replace earlier attempts at groin protection such as the Protective Under Garment, or PUG, and the Protective Over Garment, or POG.
The PUG resembled a pair of snug-fitting boxers.
“They were underwear that had pockets for ballistics to go into,” Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment said recently at a media event.
The POG looked like a tactical diaper.
The Pelvic Protection System: Tier I Protective Under Garment (PUG) and Tier II Protective Outer Garment (POG).
(US Army photo)
“And then there was an outer garment — it felt like a perpetual wedgie; soldiers hated that,” Whitehead said.
“That’s why we moved to the Blast Pelvic Protector and the cool thing about this is … there is a ballistic insert that can stop certain types of rounds, and the rest of this provides fragmentation protection.”
The new protective device features open sides with two straps on either side that connect with quick-release buckles.
Earlier attempts at protecting the groin and femoral arteries on the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, or IOTV, consisted of triangular flap of soft ballistic material that hung in front of the crotch.
In addition to the pelvic protector, soldiers from 3rd BCT will receive the new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, which will replace the Enhanced Combat Helmet in close combat units.
The new helmet offers the same ballistic protection as the ECH, but doubles the amount of protection against blunt impact or trauma to soldier’s head. Each side of the helmet has rail sections, so soldiers can mount lights and other accessories for operating in low-light conditions.
Equipment officials will also field the Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV, to 3rd BCT soldiers. The MSV weighs about 25 pounds with body armor plates. That’s about a five-pound weight reduction compared to the current IOTV.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, best known as the Humvee, has been a mainstay of the United States Military for three decades, replacing the classic Jeeps. These vehicles are now giving way to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, which has some big shoes to fill.
However, the Humvee is likely going to help its successor along — by being a parts donor.
According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, Humvees will be capable of donating their gun turrets to JLTVs. This turret, known as the Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield, or MCTAGS, helps protect the folks manning the machine guns from enemy small-arms fire.
The MCTAGS entered service in 2005, replacing the older Gunner’s Protection Kit. One of the major advantages offered by MCTAGS is increased situational awareness for the gunners, enabling them to better see and more quickly target the enemy.
The Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield has been used since 2005, but will continue on much longer thanks to a procedure that allows it to be transplanted on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Marines recently proved that the MCTAGS can be transplanted from a Humvee to a JLTV by carrying out a proof-of-principle operation, but it’s not the only piece being donated. The Improved TOW Gunner’s Protection Kit, or IT-GPK, is also fit for transfer, alongside radios and other communications gear.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will enter service in 2019.
Not only will this second-hand gear enhance the survivability of the JLTV by giving gunners better situational awareness, it’ll also help the Marines save a fair chunk of change. By using existing technology, the Marines will save on development and manufacturing costs. Additionally, many who will operate the JLTV have previous experience with the Humvee’s similar configuration, meaning there’ll be no additional training — another savings.
A Marine Corps Transparent Armor Gun Shield being transplanted on a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. This will save time and money for the Marine Corps, while increasing the combat capabilities of the JLTV.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)
Marines are currently carrying out the Operational Test and Evaluation process on the JLTV. The first units to get the JLTV will be the Marine Corps School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, California; School of Infantry-East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and Motor Transport Maintenance Instructional Company at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, which are scheduled to get the vehicles early next year.
The Coast Guard has been involved in other shows in the past, but this one is different. Viewers will see multiple areas of responsibility and various unique Coast Guard missions throughout its six episodes. The average day in the life of a coastie includes search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, law enforcement, security boardings, and more. The show gives a glimpse into what it’s like.
According to Commander Steven Youde, who currently serves in the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office, the executive producer had been wanting to create this show for years.
“I think he has had this planned all along. He wanted to go a little further and make it more diverse by including not just one location but make it Coast Guard wide,” he shared.
“A doc-series like this is really great exposure to what happens behind the scenes in the Coast Guard,” Youde explained.
He added that big drug interdictions and counter narcotic missions aren’t witnessed just for the simple fact that they happen so far out at sea. Thanks to this show, the public will get to see how it all goes down.
Photo credit: Credit Rumline Productions
Maritime Enforcement Specialist Second Class Michael Bashe is currently a part of the Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) in Miami. These detachments are highly specialized and deployable law enforcement teams. Their mission is to conduct and support maritime law enforcement, interdiction, or security operations. He was deployed to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro in the Pacific to assist with drug interdictions and the film crew came along for the ride.
“My dad was a police officer for 25 years and was a prior Marine. He told me, ‘Coast Guard is where it’s at.’ The ME rating just came out and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The different missions that we do as ME’s and leadership responsibilities and roles that we have is incredible,” Bashe shared.
He’s spent his entire career on ships focusing on counter narcotics. Bashe has also been deployed overseas with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) in Bahrain to support the U.S. Navy. When Bashe returned stateside his number one pick was TACLET South in Miami.
“The rewarding feeling that you get when you have a successful interdiction is indescribable,” Bashe said.
He appears in the first three episodes when he and another TACLET member safely and successfully apprehend suspected drug smugglers. Bashe says he loves that the public gets to see this important aspect of what the Coast Guard does, but that there’s so much more.
“I like that they get to see what we do at TACLET, but I really like that they were able to integrate the small boat stations and air stations. They are such crucial parts of any coastal city,” he said.
BM2 Hillary Burtnett. Photo credit: MK2 David Wiegman
The Coast Guard has small boat and air stations all over the country. US Coast Guard Station Marathon is located in the Florida keys and the film crew spent almost four months following coasties on their missions there. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Hillary Burtnett was a part of the show and although she found it cumbersome to have the camera crew underfoot, she’s glad the public will get to see some of what they do.
As a female BM, Burtnett is definitely part of a heavily male dominated rate or job.
“It’s different, but the guys are very respectful. We are all a team, we are out there to get it done and work together,” she said.
Although her shipmates treat her equally, it doesn’t always happen everywhere she goes. Burtnett shared that in one of the episodes, a man they rescued became very inappropriate onboard with her.
“There was a whole bunch of stuff that they didn’t show. It was tough because I was just out there trying to do my job and he was borderline harassing me but I maintained professionalism,” Burtnett shared.
She doesn’t let it get to her though and instead chooses to focus on the mission.
Burtnett recently left US Coast Guard Station Marathon for a new adventure. She’ll be on a national security cutter headed to Bahrain. She is excited to head to a big boat again, explaining that there’s nothing like the comradery of being on one. Another aspect of the service that isn’t typically known by the public or other branches of the service: you can find coasties serving all over the world.
This show gives the public a rare, honest glimpse into the Coast Guard. Cork Friedman, Executive Producer of Rumline Productions, wants to show you even more.
“Quite honestly, most folks don’t know a fraction of what the US Coast Guard does, so my passion for creating this series is directed by three principle objectives, to show the world the diversity of missions that the Coast Guard performs each and every day, to deliver the most robust, accurate docuseries ever produced featuring the real life stories of our United States Coast Guard, and to capture the intrinsic character possessed by the men and women who wear the US Coast Guard uniform,” Friedman said.
Coast Guard: Mission Critical airs on the History channel every Saturday at 6 am or on demand through the app. It can also be viewed Sundays at 5 pm on FYI.
For decades, photography has been the primary means of recording war. The medium began its rise to prominence during the American Civil War, thanks to Mathew Brady, a pioneer of photography, and his mobile darkroom. By World War I, photography had completely taken over as the de facto means of documenting war. Today, some form of photography, either still or motion, is still used to capture the iconic moments of a conflict.
But believe it or not, painting has hung on.
During the Vietnam War, the United States Army’s Center for Military History ran a unique program, selecting soldiers for temporary duty in the Vietnam Combat Artists Program. One such soldier was James R. Pollock, who served on Combat Artist Team IV from August 15, 1967, to December 31, 1967.
According to a 2009 essay written by Pollock, these artists followed various units around in the field for anywhere from one to four days. Equipped with a sketchbook and an M1911, they would share the dangers that those troops faced — if they went on patrol, the combat artists went on patrol, too.
The combat artists followed Army troops everywhere, capturing humanitarian missions like this one.
(U.S. Army Combat Art Program painting by Samuel E. Alexander)
Pollock’s team had orders to spend 60 days in Vietnam assigned to the Command Historian, Headquarters, US Army, Vietnam, followed by another 75 in Hawaii with a Special Services Officer. In Vietnam, they were to make sketches, capturing powerful moments that would be turned into completed paintings while in Hawaii.
Photography took a prominent role among historians, but paintings can still vividly capture combat.
(U.S. Army Combat Art Program by Burdell Moody)
The combat artists weren’t very high-ranking: Pollock’s team had three Specialist 4s, one Specialist 5, and one sergeant, and was supervised by a lieutenant. The artists also had “open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders” — which basically gave them free reign to hitchhike anywhere.
James Pollock was one of the artists who was on a Combat Art Team during Vietnam, and later became a famous painter who has documented the Vietnam Combat Artists Program.
(U.S. Army Combat Art Program painting by James Pollock)
This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:
1. Battle buddies depend on each other.
When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.
2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.
Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.
3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.
This is their version of “kick me.”
4. You get in trouble together.
No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.
5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.
This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.
6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.
Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.
7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …
… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.
8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.
In science fiction, when adventurous humans travel beyond our big blue marble, they’ll often run into swarms of aliens that need to be fought. And, for some reason, these futuristic warfighters are almost always called the same thing: “Space Marines.”
It’s not some one-off trope. The list of fictional works that include their own version of a Space Marine seems to span every major sci-fi classic, from comics to movies to video games. This list is just a small sampling of the most badass Space Marines that have made their mark on pop culture.
Honorable Mention. ‘ Amazing Stories: Captain Brink of the Space Marines’
The story itself is fairly straightforward and is meant for kids, but it began a trend in writing and pop culture that has since stuck.
Seriously, why haven’t we gotten a “Colonial Marine” film yet?
(20th Century Fox)
If it weren’t for the fact that these guys are technically called “Colonial Marines” instead of “Space Marines,” they’d be much higher on the list. But if there’s anyone who could stand their own against (most) aliens hordes, it’d be them.
It’s too bad they’re nothing more than glorified cannon fodder when put up against the stupid-powerful aliens.
The series’ protagonist, Master Chief, isn’t in the United Nation Space Command Marine Corps, but rather the UNSC Special Forces — because he’s a genetically modified super soldier and all that. However, every other human that fights alongside him is a Marine.
A bunch of muscle-headed, chain-smoking brutes in space? Yep, they’re Marines alright.
There are several human factions fighting each other in the StarCraft universe. But whether you’re talking about the Confederate Marine Corps, Dominion Marine Corps, or the Alliance Marine Corps, they’re all Marines… In space.
Heinlein might not have been the first to describe Space Marines, but it’s his description that stuck.
(Robert A. Heinlein)
The badassery of the Mobile Infantry is well-beloved among sci-fi fans, but they’re seldom called “Space Marines” in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel — and the term never appears in the various movies. If you look into his other short stories, however, he directly refers to the Mobile Infantry as “Space Marines.”
Okay, he’s also called “Doom Slayer” in the 2016 reboot… but no fan calls him that.
The main character throughout the Doom series is just called “Doomguy” by fans. He’s a Space Marine who kills God-knows-how-many waves of demons using countless weapons (including the aptly named “Big F*cking Gun”) and magic until he eventually kills Satan himself.
But it’s the Adeptus Astartes (the non-heretic Space Marines) that top this list.
It if wasn’t obvious by now, we love our Warhammer 40k Space Marines. They’re the embodiment of the saltiest Marine values pumped full of steroids and shot into space. Hell, even their primary enemy, the Chaos Space Marines, are insanely badass.
Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, wearing the Medal of Honor he earned in the Civil War.
Arthur MacArthur joined the Union Army soon after the start of the Civil War at the tender age of 16, but he was popular with the other men and the command and was promoted to first lieutenant in Wisconsin’s 24th Infantry Regiment the following year.
The 24th was involved in a series of tough scrapes. It marched into Kentucky in September 1862 in pursuit of the forces of Gen. Braxton Bragg. The 24th fought alongside other Union forces at Chaplin Hills, Stones River, Chickamauga Creek, and others. The 24th performed well in most of these battles, hitting hard when ordered and reportedly staying organized even when the tide turned suddenly against them.
But the regiment’s order on the battlefield should not be misread as the product of great leadership. The men reportedly performed well, but officers resigned fairly regularly.
Just at the senior ranks, the regiment suffered a resignation of its lieutenant colonel and acting commander in December 1862. A major took over until the colonel could return. That major was promoted to lieutenant colonel, but then he resigned in March 1863, and so a lieutenant was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Then the commander resigned in August 1863, and so the lieutenant colonel took over the regiment.
And that’s just the officers that gave way under the pressure. They also lost a brigade commander to enemy fire in September 1863 on the same day that the regimental commander, that lieutenant turned lieutenant colonel who had just taken over, was paralyzed by shrapnel and captured.
So the regiment’s men were used to chaotic situations, even in their own chain of command, is what we’re getting at. They performed well and earned praise wherever they fought, even when other units were breaking around them, even when their own leadership was going through high turnover, even when they were exhausted and dehydrated, like they were at Chickamauga Creek.
The regiment wasn’t always flashy, but they were seemingly steady. So it might not come as a huge surprise that, when the orders and leadership at the Battle of Missionary Ridge went wobbly, the 24th just kept doing the best job it could.
Soldiers with Wisconsin’s 2nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861.
(WisconsinHistory.org, public domain)
Our hero, First Lt. Arthur MacArthur, was the 18-year-old adjutant at this point. And the entire regiment was pointed at the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge. The rebels had been attacking Union forces from this ridge since the Union defeat at Chickamauga Creek, and Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant needed to clear it for his future plans in the faltering Chattanooga Campaign.
Grant’s first major assaults on Missionary Ridge, launched by his stalwart companion Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, failed. A second failure would force the Union Army to retreat back to Chattanooga and face a siege. A victory would cement control of Tennessee and open Georgia to invasion. The 24th Wisconsin Infantry was placed near the center of the line for this important attack on Nov. 25, 1863.
The Union advance at the center went well at the start, with regiments up and down the line breaking the Confederate defenders and taking the pits. In some cases, confused Confederates believed they were supposed to give up the pits, and so they retreated with little fight.
So the pits were taken relatively easily, but then the attack stalled as the confused commanders simply manned the pits and waited. Meanwhile, the 24th and some other regiments understood that they were supposed to take the ridge, and they advanced forward with gaps in the line. The Union advance nearly failed because of simple confusion about orders.
It was during this assault that the color bearer was hit by Confederate fire and either killed or wounded (accounts differ). In the Civil War, absent colors could quickly break a unit’s assault as the men became either confused about what direction they were supposed to be going or afraid that the leading ranks had been completely destroyed and the fight was lost. MacArthur stepped forward to get the colors back up.
Despite heavy Confederate fire, he grabbed the colors and rushed forward yelling, “On Wisconsin!” as he did so. Confederate soldiers, trying to prevent the rush, aimed for him and wounded him at least twice as he charged, but they failed to stop him.
By day’s end, the 24th was camped 2.5 miles past the ridge they had fought so hard to take. The way into Georgia was open, and the 24th would take part in the advance to Atlanta.
MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to major, soon taking command of the 24th amid the constant leadership churn of that unit. He was dubbed the “Boy Colonel” for being an 18-year-old in temporary command of a regiment, but he continued to prove his worth, leading his men to more victories and nearly dying at the head of their advance during the Battle of Franklin.
A new report compiled by U.S. Senate researchers warns that Russia has been emboldened by its efforts to interfere in U.S. and European elections, and calls for a stronger U.S. response to deter Moscow.
The report, released Jan. 10 by staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, listed a series of policy recommendations to counter what it called “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nearly two-decade-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country.”
The document highlighted various efforts by European governments to counter what researchers called Kremlin policies.
For the United States, the report calls for establishing a single government body to coordinate the U.S. response to Kremlin operations, publicizing assets and wealth held by Kremlin officials and politically connected businessmen in the West, and formalizing various Russia-related sanctions programs into a single designation: “State Hybrid Threat Actor.”
Other recommendations include working more closely with U.S. allies in Europe on a joint approach to deterring Russia and cyberthreats, pressing social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter to be more transparent in political advertising, and reducing European imports of Russian natural gas and oil.
But the report also strongly criticizes President Donald Trump’s administration, saying its response has emboldened Moscow.
“Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president,” it says.
The White House did not respond to requests for reaction to the report.
In the past, Trump officials have given mixed messages about how to deal with Russia, with Trump himself espousing more conciliatory policies, while others backing stronger responses, including financial sanctions and more U.S. military weaponry for European allies.
The Republican-controlled Congress, meanwhile, has pushed forward with Russia-related legislation, largely in response to the U.S. intelligence agencies’ finding that Moscow actively meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
In August, lawmakers passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act overwhelmingly and the measure was reluctantly signed into law by Trump.
Russia has repeatedly denied any effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
On Jan. 8, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected assertions by CIA chief Mike Pompeo that Moscow planned to meddle in the November 2018 elections that will determine whether the Republicans retain control over both houses of Congress.
The report was authored by staffers working for Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and commissioned by the panel’s lead Democrat, Ben Cardin, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin.
Asked at a briefing on Jan. 9 why Republican committee staffers or members were not involved in the report, staffers insisted that Republicans would be supportive its findings and recommendations.
North Korea announced April 17, 2019, that it had tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” leading to a lot of speculation about what North Korea, a volatile nation known for its nuclear and missile tests, may have actually fired off.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would only go so far as to say that the weapon “is not a ballistic missile” in his discussions with the press April 18, 2019. He added that there has been “no change to our posture or to our operations.”
The South Korean military, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency, concluded that North Korea was experimenting with a “guided weapon for the purpose of ground battles.”
US intelligence, CNN reported, has assessed that North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, not a new, fully-operational weapon. The US determined that the weapon was, as CNN worded it, “inconsequential to any advanced North Korean military capability.”
Satellites and aircraft operating nearby did not detect any evidence that the North launched a short-range tactical weapon or a ballistic missile. US officials told reporters that had North Korea fired an operational weapon, US sensors would have detected it.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on May 5, 2017.
Meaningful or not, the test, which was reportedly “supervised” by Chairman Kim Jong Un and comes just a few months after the failed summit in Hanoi. Some North Korea watchers believe it was intended to send a message to the Trump administration, as the announcement was accompanied by a call from the North Korean foreign ministry to remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from all future nuclear negotiations.
“The United States remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” a State Department spokesperson said.
North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since Sept. 3, 2017, when it tested what analysts suspect was a thermonuclear bomb, and the country’s last ballistic missile test was the successful launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile in late November that year.
Amid negotiations with Washington, Pyongyang has maintained a strict moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing. North Korea has, however, engaged in lower-level weapons testing to signal frustration during these talks.
Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
Following an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart in November 2018, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon.” The country apparently tested an artillery piece, most likely a multiple rocket launcher. Nonetheless, that test was the first clear sign that North Korea is willing to restart weapons testing if necessary.
The North Korean leader suggested as much in his New Year’s address. “If the U.S. does not keep the promises it made in front of the world, misjudges the patience of our people, forces a unilateral demand on us, and firmly continues with sanctions and pressures on our republic, we might be compelled to explore new ways to protect our autonomy and interests,” Kim explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The one-of-a-kind helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, has found a new home in the Southern Hemisphere. The Brazilian Navy has acquired the carrier and will use it to replace the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Sao Paolo (formerly known as Foch).
According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Royal Navy is letting HMS Ocean go despite an extensive and expensive refit. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, HMS Ocean displaces 21,578 tons, is capable of operating 12 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters, and is armed with three Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems and five 20mm cannon. The vessel also operates four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), modern versions of the World War II “Higgins boats.”
HMS Ocean was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1999 and had served for 19 years. The vessel was used to provide security support for the 2012 Olympics in London. While designed to haul 500 Royal Marines, HMS Ocean also carried out humanitarian missions, including relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma last year.
Brazil was seeking a replacement for the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Foch, which they chose to decommission and scrap after 17 years of service. Known as Sao Paolo under Brazilian service, the carrier displaced just under 31,000 tons and was able to operate up to 37 aircraft. The Sao Paolo operated 14 Skyhawks and five helicopters.
While the former HMS Ocean is not able to operate the Skyhawks, it will still give Brazil a measure of power projection. The vessel is still quite young (France operated the Foch for 37 years before handing it over to Brazil), so Brazil may be able to get a lot of use yet from this ship.
For more on the sale of HMS Ocean, check out the video below:
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.
The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.
The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.
The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.
A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.
Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.
Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.
Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.
Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.
Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.
His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”
Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.
“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.
Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.
The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.
What do they have in mind once they get into the highly confidential area? “Lets see them aliens,” the event description says.
But in a statement provided to the Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said the Air Force was aware of the event and warned against it.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” she said. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
For what it’s worth, the event remains scheduled for Sep. 20, 2019 — and it appears they know what they’re in for.
“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the event’s description says.”If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets.”
A “Naruto run” refers to the popular anime, in which a person runs very fast with their torso forward, and arms back. Faster than their bullets, if you will.