Over the last five years, some 4,200 living veterans were declared dead and had their benefits cut off by the Department of Veterans Affairs. After digging through records, Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said the mistake was a function of the way record sharing is done between the Social Security Administration and the VA. When the SSA declared someone dead, the VA would immediately kill their benefits.
Florida Congressman David Jolly had a bone to pick with the VA. Responding to his constituents’ complaints about premature death notices, he headed a Congressional inquiry in 2015. When veterans tried to correct the errors in their mortal status, they found themselves in purgatory between the two agencies. In a written statement, Rep. Jolly remarked on the grave consequences of these kinds of mistakes.
“We simply cannot have men and women who have sacrificed for this country see their rightful benefits wrongfully terminated because the VA mistakenly declares them dead,” Jolly wrote. “It has caused needless hardships for thousands of people who had their benefits terminated and their world turned upside down.”
The VA admitted its mistake to the congressman and then revived the affected veterans’ benefits as of May 2016. The VA also overhauled its death notice procedures. Now, a veteran will be notified of his or her death by mail to the last known address. The veteran will have 30 days to prove he or she is not dead. If the VA doesn’t hear from the veteran or their surviving family members, the benefits will be terminated.
We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.
After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?
1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars
Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.
2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars
The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.
Here’s one review:
“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”
3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars
The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.
A reviewer writes:
“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.
I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”
4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars
Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”
5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars
This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.
“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.
With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”
6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars
Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.
From one review:
“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it.
All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Dec. 4, 2018.
The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.
“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system — the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”
Tensions raised in Europe
The treaty — signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.
“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with reporters during a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 4, 2018.
The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”
Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”
Violation undermines allied security
But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”
The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.
No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”
A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.
Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.
Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.
“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”
Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.
“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.
Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”
He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)
“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.
With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.
“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.
Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.
“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”
“On Nov. 25, Russian means of monitoring airspace spotted an air target over an international area of the Black Sea that was approaching the state border at a high speed. A Sukhoi-30 jet of the Southern Military District’s air defense was ordered into the air for interception,” a statement published by the Russian government owned media outlet TASS said.
The Su-30, flying as close as 50 feet, sped past the P-8A and turned on its afterburners. This maneuver caused the Americans to fly through the Flanker’s jet wash and resulted in the crew experiencing “violent turbulence.”
“The U.S. aircraft was operating in international airspace and did nothing to provoke this Russian behavior,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said to CNN. “Unsafe actions have the potential to cause serious harm and injury to all air crews involved.”
A student in Texas said he is losing his Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to University of Texas at Austin because of new transgender military policies.
Map Pesqueira, a freshman at UT-Austin and a transgender man, said he initially received a three-year ROTC scholarship to the school that was supposed to go into effect his sophomore year, NBC News reported.
But he was told earlier this month that due to the transgender military policy that went into effect April 12, 2019, he is disqualified from the ROTC.
Pesqueira, who planned to join the Army as a second lieutenant after graduation, started medically transitioning in 2018, and was told he is now unable to serve because of the new transgender guidelines.
“Because I’ve already had top surgery, hormone replacement therapy, gender marker and my name changed, that automatically disqualifies me,” Pesqueira told NBC News. “Basically, I’m so far into my transition, I’m unable to serve.”
Lieutenant Colonel Matthew S. O’Neill, who works in the ROTC Department at UT-Austin, tried to save Pesqueira’s scholarship by having him “grandfathered” into the program, according to the Daily Texan, but was unsuccessful.
If he doesn’t raise enough funds, he will look for a community college near his hometown of San Antonio, KVUE reported.
In a statement to KVUE, UT-Austin said it could not comment on Pesqueira’s individual case.
The statement said: “We offer many different avenues of assistance for students who undergo sudden changes that might affect their access to a UT education. These resources include our Student Emergency Services office and the Graduation Help Desk, which both work closely with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. Our staff are experienced in these situations and stand ready to help students navigate the resources they need to complete their education.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.
The Navy SEALs who raided Osama bin Laden’s in 2011 found a treasure trove of information on the workings of al Qaeda leadership, but one “bro” is concerned with only one thing: the terror mastermind’s porn stash.
“What I want to know is what he jerked it to,” wrote David Covucci, at the college “bro” site, BroBible. “Because when he was killed, it was reported — probably as an attempt to disgrace him — that Bin Laden had a significant stash of pornographic material.”
Indeed, Reuters reported bin Laden had “modern, electronically recorded video” that “is fairly extensive,” according to U.S. officials. So Covucci did what any bro would do when searching for the truth. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA:
“With regard to the pornographic material Osama Bin Laden had in his possession at the time of his death, responsive records, should they exist, would be contained in the operational files. The CIA Information Act, 50 U.S.C 431, as amended, exempts CIA operational files from search, review, publication, and disclosure requirements of the FOIA. To the extent that this material exists, the CIA would be prohibited by 18 USC Section 1461 from mailing obscene matter.”
The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.
Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.
Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”
To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.
Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.
The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.
Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.
The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.
The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.
By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.
“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.
“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”
President Donald Trump’s trip to France for the country’s Bastille Day parade in July left a big impression. So big, in fact, that he wants to replicate the experience back home.
As Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump gushed about seeing France’s military might on display in the streets of Paris during his visit. And he told reporters that he is looking into the possibility of having the parade down the streets of Washington on Independence Day to show the US’s “military strength.”
“I was your guest at Bastille Day, and it was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Macron, who sat next to him. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and the spirit of France.”
“To large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump said.
The comments prompted laughter from Macron and other officials sitting around them. The leaders were meeting in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. But it isn’t the first time that Trump has talked about wanting a military parade in the streets of Washington.
Before the inauguration, Trump officials inquired with the Pentagon about having armored vehicles participate in his inauguration parade, according to documents obtained by the HuffPost. And he told The Washington Post in January that he hoped that during his tenure, the US’s military might would be on display.
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said in the January interview. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.”
“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, DC, for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.
Though Trump is deeply unpopular in France, he was invited for the 100th Bastille Day ceremony in Paris by Macron in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and its new leaders. The lengthy parade seemed to thrill the president, who has long held a fascination with military might.
On Sept. 18, seated next to Macron, he boasted about the levels of US military spending in his first term. And he said that his goal would be to “try to top” what France did.
“I think we’re looking forward to doing that,” Trump said. “I’m speaking with General Kelly and with all of the people involved, and we’ll see if we can do it this year,” he added, referring to his Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about plans to hold such a parade.
The Battle of the Atlantic lasted almost the entirety of the Second World War. It started when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 and it didn’t end until Nazi Germany surrendered. Even then, some U-boats refused to give up the fight with their nation — a maritime version of Japanese holdouts.
The Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It’s hard to really comprehend this battle, both due to the length of the campaign (almost six years of fighting) and the massive scope. Forces clashed the world over, from the North Cape to Montevideo. But between these battles, it was sheer drudgery — long moments of boredom, punctuated by a submarine attack or air raid that would never make headlines.
A Vought SB2U flies over a convoy carrying troops and supplies to the front.
(US Navy photo)
Despite the languid pace, the Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance. Without winning the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies could never have pulled off the Normandy invasion, much less force the surrender of Nazi Germany. It was all about securing the lines of communication between the United States and the Allied forces in Europe and the Mediterranean.
A convoy heads towards Casablanca, one of the locations where troops hit the beach during Operation Torch.
(US Navy photo)
Merriam-Webster defines a line of communication as “the net of land, water, and air routes connecting a field of action (as a military front) with its bases of operations and supplies.” In the case of the Battle of the Atlantic, the major focus was on keeping waterways open. This was the only way to transport the many tanks and planes needed to win the war, not to mention the supplies for ground troops. In fact, sea transport still matters today because it’s the most convenient way to move a major force to the front.
Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.
But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.
Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”
“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.
“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.
Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.
“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.
“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.
Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.
Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.
Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.
But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.
More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.
The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.
Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.
But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.
More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.
It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.
The Army will start buying weapons the way Special Operations does, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told reporters here, bringing different specialists together in one streamlined team. The often-insular Army is also studying the other services, Milley said, particularly the rapid development of the nuclear Navy under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover. A three-star officer, Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, is currently developing detailed options, and Milley hopes to stand up “this new command” by summer 2018.
The primary objective: Infuse real-world combat experience into every step of the process. “Warfighters have to be intimately involved from the front end, (in) Milestone A (research) and B (development),” Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told a different group of reporters. That’s in contrast to the current “bifurcated” system, in which combat veterans, requirement writers for what new equipment must do, the program managers who actually build things, and the logisticians who keep them running are segregated in different bureaucracies.
The new system will draw on the experience of Special Operations Command and other small, streamlined organizations – such as the Army’s own Rapid Capabilities Office and Rapid Equipping Force. They will try to scale that up to the Big Army, McCarthy said. For each top priority program, a former combat brigade commander will lead a “cross functional team” of concept and requirements developers, program managers, testers, logisticians, and so on.
McCarthy emphasized that the Army isn’t asking for new force structure, just reorganizing what it has, and legally mandated reporting requirements will remain in place. Program managers will participate on the new teams, for example, but they’ll still answer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Will the Army need new legal authorities or relief from existing statue? “I don’t know,” McCarthy said frankly, but he’s already been talking with legislators and their staff.
One change defense contractors will appreciate: McCarthy is working with the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Ellen Lord, to change an unpopular policy on companies’ Independent Research And Development expenses. The intent, he told a formal press conference here, is to give companies incentives to spend their own money in IRAD, which benefits the troops, instead of sitting on cash and buying back their stock, which doesn’t.
New Model Army
All told, it’s an all-out assault on the slowest and most sclerotic of military bureaucracies (which is really saying something), the Army’s acquisition system. Milley said it would be “the largest reengineering of the institutional Army in four decades.”
Milley repeatedly emphasized that 40-year figure. Why? He’s referring to the 1973 reform by his famed predecessor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, that established a separate Training Doctrine Command to oversee all training, write all doctrinal manuals, and develop requirements. Once TRADOC writes requirements, however, they’re handed to Army Materiel Command and the ASAALT, who actually research, develop, buy, field, and sustain the equipment in question.
Getting requirements right is difficult for any military organization, but only the Army has to struggle with such a stark bureaucratic divide. One plausible rumor we’ve heard is that a new “Modernization Command” will be built by combining TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center and AMC’s Research Development Command, probably along with elements of Army Test Evaluation Command.
The proposed reform is outlined very vaguely in a memo co-signed by Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy, first reported by our colleague Patrick Tucker. “Our processes are staff-centric and often stove-piped, which inhibits integration within our across programs. Our requirements process is slow and overly bureaucratic,” the memo says. To fix this, “our Army will establish unity of command and unity of effort that consolidates the modernization process under one roof.”
At a press conference here, Milley and McCarthy declined to divulge many details of the plan. The reorganization scheme is being developed by a task force under Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, who reports back in 120 days. But Milley shared more of his thinking to reporters who caught him on his way out, to the visible frustration of the aides trying to keep him on schedule:
“If you want to see the genesis of the model that we’re thinking about, go take a look at how SOCOM does their thing, because that’s where we got a lot of the ideas,” Milley said. “We looked at the way the Air Force does it, the Navy does it, (including) the navy in the nuclear environment, y’know under Rickover, (and) we went out to industry… we looked at all of that and tried to take best practices.”
“We’ve got to streamline, we’ve got to rationalize,” Milley said. “Right now, the Army’s structure — the institution, the processes, the organization (is) not coherent to deliver effective capabilities for the future.”
“With a few exceptions like the Army Rapid Capbilities Office and the Rapid Equipping Force, we’re basically a left-right-left, step-by-step process going from an idea, establishing a requirement, writing up a big requirements document, and then vetting it through multiple steps,” Milley said. “It takes 10, 20 years to go from idea to delivery of a capability. You just can’t operate like that in today’s world. You just can’t do it. it’s got to be faster, it’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be more coherent, and we’ve got to kind of bring it all together.”
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.
Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.
During a March 10 speaking engagement at a conference in Washington, D.C., for instance, Milley chastised a bureaucratic acquisition system for making it overly complicated to field equipment in a timely manner, citing the service’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, effort as a prime example.
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold-War era, M9 9mm pistol.
Milley criticized the program’s 356-page requirement document and lengthy testing phase slated to cost $17 million for technology that has existed for years.
“The testing itself is two years long on known technology,” Milley told law makers at a March 16 House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We are not talking about nuclear subs or going to the moon here. We are talking about a pistol.”
But behind the scenes, Milley has moved beyond criticism and taken steps to select a new sidearm for soldiers, including exploring the possibility of bypassing the MHS effort altogether.
Milley recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. The striker-fired, 9mm pistol features a four- inch barrel and has a standard capacity of 15 rounds, although 17-round magazines are available. The polymer frame features an accessory rail for mounting lights.
New Glock 19s retail for $500-$600 each. USASOC is currently paying a base price of about $320 for each Glock 19, the source said.
With that price, the Army would pay about $91.8 million if the service were to buy 287,000 pistols, the quantity requirement outlined in the MHS effort.
Currently, the MHS program is projected to cost about $350 million, Army officials maintain.
But choosing the Glock 19 would abandon one of the major goals of the MHS effort — to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Most special operations forces, however, use 9mm pistols and a new Defense Department policy that authorizes “special purpose ammunition” now allows the military to use expanding or hollow-point bullets, experts maintain.
Military.com contacted Milley’s office and USASOC for comment but neither office responded by deadline.
Milley has also asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to grant authority to the service chiefs to approve the acquisition of equipment that does not require new technology or research and development, the source said.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that you don’t have the authority to pick a pistol for the Army,” Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from Georgia, told Milley during last week’s House Armed Service Committee hearing. All of the service chiefs were present.
“I would bet that the four of you in uniform could probably in 10 minutes come up with an agreement on what that platform should be,” he said. “I would think that with a quick click or two on an iPad that you could figure out what the retail price of the pistol was, what a decent price for that pistol was and what we should be paying for that pistol if we were buying it in the quantities that we were buying it in.”
The congressman added, “I want you to know that I do believe that you should have that authority.”
Milley told lawmakers that the “secretary of the Army and I do have the authority to pick the weapon, but that’s at the end of the day; the problem is getting to the end of the day.”
Scott agreed with Milley that the current acquisition system needs simplifying.
“I can’t help but wonder that if it’s this bad with a pistol, what about optics, what about rifles; all of the things we are buying? How much bureaucracy is in there? What we could remove that would allow you to equip your men and women better, faster and with less money?” he said.
Scott encouraged Milley, and the other service chiefs, to come up with “specific language you would like to see in the National Defense Authorization Act that would help you cut through that red tape.”