In an empty office space on the 19th floor of a University of Texas System building in Austin, Aug. 24, 2018, the Army unveiled the location for the headquarters of its new Futures Command, which has the monumental task of modernizing the service’s future force.
For the first time, the Army will place a major command within an urban setting instead of on a military base. The goal is to bring itself closer to technology innovators and researchers in one of the nation’s top growing technology cities.
“We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “We searched for a location that had the right combination of top-tier academic talent, cutting edge industry and an innovative private sector.”
The Army announced in October 2017 its intent to create a new command that would be responsible for modernization. Initially, some 150 cities were considered as possibilities to house the new command’s headquarters. Eventually, that number was pared down to five, including Austin.
Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
Ultimately, Austin scored the highest among those remaining five cities. Criteria for the final selection included density of industry and academic talent and proximity to private sector innovation. Austin boasts a growing number of professionals in the science and tech industries and hosts academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career fields.
“Austin’s already a hub of innovation,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. “And [it’s] a business-friendly environment … this will allow our military Department of Defense personnel access to the countless startups and emerging technology entrepreneurs already at work here.”
The Army Futures Command is tasked with, among other things, developing future warfighting concepts, generating innovative solutions through research and development, and building the next generation of combat systems.
Gen. John M. Murray, who served previously as the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, has been named director of the new command.
“Our Futures Command will have a singular focus: to make soldiers and leaders more effective and more lethal today and in the future,” said Murray. “This must be a team (effort). It’s about working together to ensure our soldiers have the capabilities they need when they need them, to deploy, fight and win on the modern battlefield against an incredibly lethal enemy.
Gen. Mike Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurl the Army Futures Command flag during a ceremony, Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
“We will bring the best talent we can — inside and outside the capital to address the Army’s most pressing problems,” Murray continued. “And deliver solutions at the speed of relevance — at the speed our soldiers deserve. For too long, we have focused on the cost schedule or performance. We must now focus on value.”
For now, the Army Futures Command will lead eight cross-functional teams that are responsible for furthering the Army’s pursuit of six modernization priorities, including long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier lethality.
Army leadership said it will take about a year before Army Futures Command reaches full operational capability. The new command is expected to eventually include about 100 military positions and 400 civilian roles.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley credited the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona with helping spur development of the new command. “He planted the seed,” Milley said.
The Army’s chief of staff said that the character of war is changing, and that private sector innovations in both robotics and artificial intelligence will eventually find their way onto battlefields in the hands of enemies. Army Futures Command will ensure U.S. soldiers also have the best technology.
“We know there’s a multitude of emerging technologies that are going to have, whether we like it or not, impact on the conduct of military operations,” Milley said. “It is this command … that is going to determine victory or defeat.”
Featured image: Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke Aug. 24, 2018, in Austin, Texas, during activation of the Army Futures Command.
The United States has slapped sanctions on a network of businesses that provide financial support to an Iranian paramilitary force that Washington says recruits and trains child soldiers for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The new sanctions, announced on Oct. 16, 2018, are part of the United States’ economic campaign to pressure Iran over what President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign” role in the Middle East, including support for militant groups.
In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department said in a statement that a network of some 20 corporations and financial institutions known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij force, a volunteer paramilitary organization linked to the IRGC.
“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said.
The militia also recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, it added.
President Bashar al-Assad.
The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.
Tehran has given Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
The Treasury said that the Bonyad Taavon Basij uses shell companies to mask its control over multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries.
It sanctioned Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co., and five other investment firms, as well as other entities affiliated with the network.
These include Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., the Middle East’s largest tractor manufacturer, and Mobarakeh Steel Co., the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, it said.
The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the network or its affiliates and freeze assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron’s relationship looks set to get even closer, with reports indicating that the French president will be the first world leader to make a full state visit to Washington, DC.
According to the AFP news agency, Macron plans to visit the U.S. capital in late April, and will be the first foreign leader to be given the full pomp of a state occasion, which includes a meal in the White House’s State Dining Room.
The apparently warm relations between Trump and Macron is a contrast to the strained relationship between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
May was the first world leader to visit Trump after his inauguration, but images of the two holding hands just before Trump embarked on his controversial travel ban were political kryptonite in Britain.
An invitation from Queen Elizabeth for Trump to make a state visit to Britain was accepted, but has been repeatedly delayed, while British activists have prepared large-scale street protests for when the final date is set.
Trump and Macron differ on policy significantly, including their stance on the European Union, the Iran deal, and U.S. participation in the Paris climate change agreement.
Their initial meeting appeared tense and was dominated by an awkward, combative, white-knuckle handshake. But since then the men seem to have got on fine, with the reported state visit seeming to be further evidence.
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.
“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.
The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.
The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”
Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.
But that is going to change, he added.
“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”
Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.
The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.
The key difference between the global influence campaigns of China and Russia is that Beijing is just better at it, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Speaking to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, Garnaut was giving national-security advice on influence operations when Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard asked him to compare China’s influence methods to Russia’s.
“Why is it that all we hear about is Russia’s actions, whereas there are countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other countries that purchase TV ads, fund think tanks here in Washington, that fund institutions in our universities seeking to achieve that same objective. Why is it that Russia’s actions stand out?” Gabbard asked.
Garnaut was short and to the point: “I think one answer may be because China is very good at it,” he said.
Part of this reason is the very different approaches the two countries take.
“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time.”
“So, often its quite incremental in the way that China behaves, whereas Russia tends to do these focused, sharp strikes,” Garnaut said, stressing that the distinction doesn’t mean that China’s methods are less important.
“They put an enormous amount of effort into making sure we don’t talk about what it’s doing,” he said, referring to world’s second-largest economy.
“I think we’ve just failed to recognize a lot of the activity that has been going on and that needs to change and its starting to change, certainly in Australia, and starting to change in the US.”
While the US has largely been focused on Russia’s meddling in its 2016 presidential election, Australia has been grappling with how to handle apparent attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to subtly influence its politics and society at large.
In response, Australia’s government in 2017 introduced a new law to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference.
In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.
But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.
The day after the revolution.
As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.
But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders
The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.
That sealed his fate.
The palace on the day of the coup.
It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.
By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.
The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.
The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.
Army officials also confirmed that Fort Belvoir, Virginia also received a package that “tested positive for black powder and residue,” according to US Army spokesman Michael Howard. An X-ray reportedly indicated a “suspected GPS” and an “expedient fuse” were attached.
Both of the packages were rendered safe and no injuries were reported, Army officials told CNN. The FBI has since taken custody of the packages for further investigation.
Federal officials sad they did not believe the packages were sent by Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspect in the Austin, Texas, bombings who killed himself after a weeks-long bombing spree in March 2018 that killed two people and wounded five, NBC News reported.
Other military installations received suspicious packages in 2018. In late February 2018, 11 people fell ill and were treated for symptoms that included nosebleeds and burning sensations after an envelope containing an unknown substance was opened at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.
There’s just something special about Duffle Blog articles. Most joke news sites make it completely obvious that they’re jokes and should never be taken seriously. Most rational people would read a headline like “Are Millenials killing the telegram industry?” and take the joke at face value. Then there’s satire – an art form truly mastered by the folks at DB.
Actual satire is a joke about something taken to the extreme so the audience can see the absurdity in whatever is being ridiculed. Think Stephen Colbert when he was on Comedy Central. Great satire blurs those lines so obscurely that no one can really tell the absurdity. Think Don Quixote and how people believed it was a story about how chivalrous knights were.
On a much lighter note, half of all social media users were unable to connect Wednesday, and we got a new trailer for the upcoming Avengers film. I’m not saying it’s a coincidence, but it definitely smells like the greatest viral marketing strategy for a film to date.
If you survived the “Snappening,” enjoy some memes!
The alert sowed confusion, fear, and, pandemonium — especially among tourists — in the 38 minutes before it was officially declared a false alarm. Some hotel guests peered through windows and doors to catch a glimpse of the incoming threat. Others scrambled to their rooms to stuff a bag and dash for the car (which you should never do in a nuclear attack).
One married couple in town from St. Louis rebuffed their hotel’s instructions to stay inside and instead stepped out onto nearby Waikiki Beach.
“We were afraid of being inside a building and getting crushed, like in 9/11,” the couple told Business Insider in an email. “We were afraid to follow all of the hotel employees calmly telling us to go into a ballroom.”
That is, until one of them googled “safety nuclear bomb how shelter” from the beach — and found a Business Insider article titled “If a nuclear bomb goes off, this is the most important thing you can do to survive.”
Our story advises going inside if there’s a nuclear explosion, which the couple said they then did.
It does not address how to act if there’s an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile launched by a nation like North Korea. As Hawaii’s false alarm suggests, the latter may come with a few minutes to a half-hour of warning.
“The good news is the ‘get inside, stay inside, stay tuned’ phrase works for both for the threat of a potential nuclear detonation as well as a nuclear detonation that has occurred,” Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and expert on radiation and emergency preparedness at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Business Insider.
But Buddemeier, who has worked for more than 15 years with federal, state, and local stakeholders on response plans to nuclear-disaster scenarios, says there are some important differences that can improve your chances of survival.
“Having a plan and knowing what to do can really help alleviate a lot of anxiety,” he said.
Here’s how to act and where to take shelter if you get an alert about an ICBM or other nuclear threat.
A flash, a burst, and a blast
Knowing what you’re trying to avoid can help keep you safe. All nuclear blasts are marked by a handful of important effects:
1. A flash of light.
2. A pulse of thermal (i.e., heat) energy.
3. A pulse of nuclear radiation.
4. A fireball.
5. An air blast.
6. Radioactive fallout.
The first three arrive almost instantaneously, as they travel at light-speed — though thermal radiation can last several seconds and inflict severe burns miles from a blast site.
The final two effects travel close together, but the air blast goes much farther. It causes the most damage in a nuclear explosion by tumbling vehicles, toppling weak buildings, and throwing debris. The majority of fallout arrives last, as it’s lofted high into the sky and sprinkles down.
There are two upshots: Going inside can greatly limit or even block these devastating effects, and a nuclear weapon’s power is not infinite but limited to the device’s explosive yield. That makes a single blast or even a limited nuclear exchange survivable for most people.
Arms-control experts suspect a nation like North Korea may have missile-ready warheads that would explode with 10 to 30 kilotons’ worth of TNT. That ranges from less than to roughly twice the yield of either nuclear bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945.
The worst destruction, where the chances of survival are least likely, is confined to a “severe damage zone.” For a 10-kiloton blast — equivalent to two-thirds of the Hiroshima bomb blast, or 5,000 Oklahoma City truck bombings — that’s about a half-mile radius.
Vehicles offer almost no protection from radiation, including fallout, and a driver can experience dazzle — or flash blindness — for 15 seconds to a minute.
“The rods and cones of your eyes get overloaded and kind of have to reboot,” Buddemeier. “It’s just long enough to lose control of your car. If you happen to be driving at speed on the roadways, and you and all the other drivers around you are suddenly blind, I think that would probably result in crashes and injuries and road blockages.”
If there’s a missile alert, the best move is to get to the closest place where you can safely pull over, get out, and make your way into a building.
“When you go inside, go into the interior middle of the building, or a basement,” he said. “This would prevent injuries from flying glass from the blast, it would prevent dazzle from the blast, and it would prevent thermal burns.”
The deeper and lower in the building you can get, and the farther from windows (which can shatter), doors (which can fly open), and exterior walls (which can cave in), the better your odds.
“When I think of where I would go for protection from prompt effects, and from the blast wave in particular, I think of the same kinds of things that we do for tornadoes,” Buddemeier said. “If your house is going to be struck by a wall of air or a tornado or a hurricane, you want to be in a place that is structurally sound.”
Another tip: Steer clear of rooms with a lot of ceiling tiles, fixtures, or moveable objects.
“Be in an area where if there’s a dramatic jolt, things aren’t going to fall on you,” he said.
Buddemeier said that at his office building, he’d go to the stairwell.
“It’s actually in the core of the building, so it has concrete walls, and it doesn’t have a lot of junk in it,” he said. “So that would be an ideal place to go.”
At home, a three-story condo building, he’d head toward the first floor and move as much toward its center as possible.
“I do not have a basement, but if I did, that’s where I’d go,” Buddemeier said. “The storm cellar Auntie Em has in Kansas is great too.”
Staying inside can also limit how much invisible nuclear radiation produced by a blast will reach your body.
Too much exposure over a short time can damage the body enough to limit its ability to fix itself, fight infection, and perform other functions, leading to a dangerous condition called acute radiation sickness or syndrome.
Typically, about 750 millisieverts of exposure over several hours or less can make a person sick. This is roughly 100 times the amount of natural and medical radiation that an average American receives each year. A 10-kiloton blast can deliver this much exposure within a radius of about a mile, inside the “moderate damage zone.” (Several miles away, radiation dosage drops to tens of millisieverts or less.)
But Buddemeier says most exposure assumptions are based on test blasts in the desert.
“There’s no assumption that there’s some kind of blocking going on,” he said, which is all the more reason to put as much concrete, steel, and other radiation-absorbing building materials between you and a blast.
Buddemeier said a decent shelter could reduce your exposure by tenfold or more.
The shelter you find before a blast, however, may not be the best place to stay afterward.
How to avoid radioactive fallout after an explosion
The next danger to avoid is radioactive fallout, a mixture of fission products (or radioisotopes) that a nuclear explosion creates by splitting atoms.
Nuclear explosions loft this material high into the atmosphere as dust-, salt-, and sand-size particles, and it can take up to 15 minutes to fall to the ground. High-altitude winds can make it sprinkle over hundreds of square miles, though it’s most intense near the blast site.
The danger is from fission products that further split up or decay. During this process, many shoot gamma rays, an invisible yet highly energetic form of light that can deeply penetrate the body and inflict significant radiation damage.
But a nuclear attack would probably create more radioactive fallout than a missile-launched warhead. That’s because warheads are often designed to explode high above a target — not close to the ground, where their fireballs can suck up and irradiate thousands of tons of dirt and debris.
Regardless, Buddemeier says sheltering in place for at least 12 to 24 hours — about how long the worst of this radiation lasts — can help you survive the threat of fallout.
“If your ad hoc blast-protection shelter is not that robust and there’s a bigger robust building nearby or a building that has a basement, you may have time to move to that building for your fallout protection after the detonation has occurred,” Buddemeier said.
He added that, depending on your distance from the blast, you might get 10 to 15 minutes to move to a better shelter — ideally, a windowless basement, where soil and concrete can help block a lot of radiation.
Buddemeier said that at his basement-less condo, he’d move to the center of the middle floor after a blast “because the fallout is going to land on the ground around my house, and that first floor would have slightly higher exposure than the second floor.”
But it’s best to hunker down in your blast shelter if you’re unsure whether it’s safe to move, he said. Fires and obstructive debris, for example, are likely to be widespread.
“The most important thing in both cases is to be inside when the event occurs, either when the detonation occurs or when the fallout arrives,” Buddemeier said.
A 2014 study suggests that waiting an hour after fallout arrives to move to a better location that’s within 15 minutes can be a smart idea in limited situations.
Buddemeier is a fan of the phrase “go in, stay in, tune in”: Get to your fallout shelter, stay in for 12 to 24 hours, and tune in with a radio, phone, or other device for official instructions on when to evacuate and what route to take to avoid fallout.
“Fallout casualties are entirely preventable,” he previously told Business Insider. “In a large city … knowing what to do after an event like this can literally save hundreds of thousands of people from radiation illness or fatalities.”
Other tips for making it out of a nuclear disaster alive
There are many more strategies to increase your chances of survival.
Having basic emergency supplies in kits at home, at work, and in your car will help you prepare for and respond to any disaster, let alone a radiological one.
For preventing exposure to fallout after a blast, tape plastic over entryways or broken windows at your shelter and turn off any cooling or heating systems that draw in outside air. Drinking bottled water and prepackaged food is also a good idea.
And if you’ve been exposed to fallout, there’s a process to remove that radioactive contamination:
–Take off your outer layer of clothes, put them into a plastic bag, and remove the bag from your shelter.
–Shower if you can, thoroughly washing your hair and skin with soap or shampoo (no conditioner), or use a wet cloth.
–Blow your nose to remove any inhaled fallout.
–Flush your eyes, nose, and facial hair (including eyebrows and eyelashes) with water, or wipe them with a wet cloth.
–Put on uncontaminated clothes (for example, from a drawer or plastic bag).
Potassium iodide pills, while often billed as anti-radiation drugs, are anything but fallout cure-alls. Buddemeier estimates that radioiodine is just 0.2% of the overall exposure you may face outdoors and says the pills are more helpful for addressing longer-term concerns about food-supply contamination. (The government will provide them for free if they’re needed, according to the Food and Drug Administration.)
The single most important thing to remember if a nuclear bomb is supposed to explode, he says, is to shelter in place.
“There were survivors in Hiroshima within 300 meters of the epicenter,” Buddemeier said. “They weren’t in [buildings] to be protected. They just happened to be in there. And what major injuries they received were from flying glass.”
Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.
These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.
Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.
With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.
If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.
Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.
Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.
Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.
The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.
We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.
Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.
International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.
It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.
Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.
Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.
Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.
Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.
President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.
The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.
The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.
So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?
I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.
“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.
The US Army is using its developmental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) heads-up display, which was created to help soldiers better wage war on future battlefields, to combat the novel coronavirus, the service revealed.
The Army recently tweaked the software for a number of IVAS prototype goggles to allow the devices to detect fevers, and soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia have been using them to scan hundreds of troops on base.
“That’s the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our Soldiers need tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, who heads PEO Soldier, said in a statement.
The Army has been partnering with Microsoft to create a mixed-reality heads-up display for the dismounted soldier that offers a warfighter immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in digital space.
With this system, soldiers can see in the dark, shoot around corners, translate text, take photos and video, and track targets, among other things.
Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, IVAS is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s signature modernization effort, and the team has been pushing forward with its development even as the coronavirus continues to upend plans.
At the same time, the Army has figured out how to use its IVAS head-up display to help combat the virus.
The service is using the system to “rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of Soldiers as they prepare for training” at Fort Benning, where thousands of soldiers go through a variety of different courses and training programs, the Army said in a statement.
One common symptom among individuals who have been infected by the coronavirus is a fever.
Last week, Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science Technology Special Project Office with C5ISR’s Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, realized that the HUD’s digital thermal sensors used to detect enemies in the dark could be repurposed to spot temperature spikes.
Modified IVAS heads-up displays were quickly sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. With these devices, which display scanned forehead and inner eye temperatures in the user’s goggles, soldiers were able to scan and process around 300 individuals in just 30 minutes.
The Army said that anyone who had a fever was sent to a nearby medical facility for evaluation.
Scanning was carried out indoors in a facility where commercial thermal referencing sources were used to calibrate the devices to room temperature.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future. No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today,” Bowman said in a statement.
If everything goes according to plan, the Army intends to start fielding IVAS goggles to soldiers in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, in summer of next year.
Several al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab members were killed in a joint US-Somalian raid July 13, the Associated Press reports.
US Africa Command confirmed a “advise and assist” mission took place but offered no details to the AP. The raid is the latest in a series of escalating actions against the terrorist group under new authorities provided by President Donald Trump.
Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities” in late March, giving the US military greater autonomy in green-lighting airstrikes.
A US Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia in May during a similar raid, marking the first US combat death in the country since the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident that killed 18 service-members. Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 5 the US keeps approximately 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist the Somalian army.
Al-Shabaab famously carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. The US joined a coalition of several African nations after the attack in an attempt to curtail the terrorist group.
Al-Shabaab continues to remain active in Somalia’s rural areas despite nearly four years of combined US coalition efforts. The terrorist group’s stated mission is to take the Somali capital of Mogadishu and impose its interpretation of Islamic law on the population writ large.
The Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab has acknowledged that its antivirus software took source code for a secret US hacking tool from a personal computer in the United States.
The admission came in an Oct. 25 statement on the preliminary results of an internal inquiry that the company launched after media reported that the Russian government used its antivirus software to collect US National Security Agency technology.
Concerns about Kaspersky’s activities prompted the US Department of Homeland Security last month to bar government agencies from using the company’s products.
Kaspersky said that in 2014, the consumer version of its popular product analyzed questionable software from a computer in the United States — which media reports said belonged to an NSA worker — and found a zip file that was flagged as malicious.
While reviewing the file’s contents, an analyst discovered it contained the source code for a hacking tool.
The statement said that the matter was reported to Kaspersky CEO Yevgeny Kaspersky, who ordered that the company’s copy of the code be destroyed, and that after that “the archive was deleted from all our systems.”
Yevgeny Kaspersky. Wikimedia Commons photo by Kai Mörk.
The statement came after The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 5 that the Russian government was able to modify Kaspersky software to turn it into an espionage tool.
And on Oct. 10, The New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence officials have determined that Russian government hackers have used Kaspersky’s software for espionage.
The Kremlin described the reports indicating that Kaspersky has been used as a conduit for Russian espionage as “absurd.”