Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who walked off his post in Afghanistan and triggered a search that wounded some of his comrades, will serve no prison time, a military judge ruled Nov. 3 at the end of the politically divisive case that stirred debate during the president campaign.
The charges centered on a decision by one soldier that affected many other lives. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, until President Barack Obama traded Taliban prisoners to bring him back. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump called for Bergdahl to face stiff punishment. He could have received up to life in prison.
The judge also gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, reduced his rank to private and ordered him to forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months. The judge made no other comments.
In court, Bergdahl appeared tense, grimaced and clenched his jaw. His attorneys put their arms around him and one patted him on the back.
He pleaded guilty last month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The judge had wide leeway in deciding the sentence because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his punishment.
Prosecutors had sought a stiff penalty because of wounds suffered by service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009.
The defense sought to counter that evidence with testimony about Bergdahl’s suffering as a captive, his contributions to military intelligence and survival training and his mental health problems. The argument for leniency also cited harsh campaign-trail criticism by Trump.
The White House said it had no comment on the sentence and referred back to a statement from several weeks ago that said Trump expects everyone in the military justice system “to exercise their independent professional judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations.”
A punitive discharge deprives Bergdahl of most or all his veterans’ benefits.
Capt. Nina Banks, a defense attorney, said it would not be justice to rescue Bergdahl from the Taliban “only to place him in a cell” now.
During the multi-day sentencing hearing, Bergdahl testified that he was sorry for the wounds suffered by searchers. He also described brutal beatings by his captors, illness brought on by squalid conditions and maddening periods of isolation.
A psychiatrist testified that his decision to leave his post was influenced by a schizophrenia-like condition called schizotypal personality disorder that made it hard to understand the consequences of his actions, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder brought on partly by a difficult childhood.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 14 years in prison.
Bergdahl “does not have a monopoly on suffering as a result of his choices,” Maj. Justin Oshana said.
The sergeant already has a job offer from an animal sanctuary, and a military official who helps design survival training said he would like to use Bergdahl as a part of lectures to service members on how to survive captivity.
The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. He has been stationed at a military installation in San Antonio.
At the time of Bergdahl’s release, Obama said the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield. Republicans roundly criticized Obama, and Trump went further while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a traitor who deserved serious punishment.
As America works quickly to find ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it might not always be easy to know which industries are being affected and in what ways. Restaurants are offering takeout, cable companies are giving rebates on data usage, and the mail… well, the mail is working just like it always has. And for good reason.
Some people have expressed concerns that the coronavirus known as Covid-19 seems to have a fairly long survival window on hard surfaces like kitchen counters, so it seems feasible that one could be exposed to Covid-19 through a letter or package they receive. Others have worried that isolation procedures could disrupt delivery of mail and other shipments. Fortunately, most of these concerns can be readily dismissed.
So, here are some frequently asked questions, along with expert-backed answers.
Q:Is it safe to send and receive mail or packages amid the coronavirus outbreak?
A: Yes, according to the CDC and WHO.
Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already considered our concerns about viral transmission through the mail. They point out that the likelihood that the virus could potentially survive throughout the duration of shipping is so small, there’s really no risk associated with sending or receiving packages.
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC website reads.
The CDC aren’t the only ones saying mail is safe to send and receive. The experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) have echoed the CDC’s sentiments in their own releases.
“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO said.
Q: Are mail rooms shutting down at basic training?
A: No, and if that changes, we’ll let you know right away.
Sandboxx News’ close relationship with Sandboxx Letters gives us a unique insight into how the letters apparatus runs, and just how closely our friends on the Letters side of the business keep in touch with the mail rooms at basic training installations all around the country.
Sandboxx’s operations team have been working double time to keep open lines of communications with mail rooms around the force, making sure they’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue and relaying the updates to Sandboxx’s executive leadership, Customer Happiness team, and us at Sandboxx News.
“Under normal operations we call every mailroom that we ship to across all 5 branches of the military once a month,” explains Bobby Vigil, Sandboxx’s Operations Manager and a Marine Corps infantry veteran. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have been calling mailrooms once a week and will continue doing so, so we can stay on top of any changes made to base operations.”
The mail printing procedure at Sandboxx is also particularly safe for a number of reasons. Most of the Sandboxx staff has switched to working remotely, so the operations crew has limited exposure to others. The process of printing and even stuffing the letters into envelopes is all handled by machines, so there’s very little chance for issues to arise.
Sandboxx Letters works with FedEx for to ensure rapid delivery. You can see what they’re doing to make sure packages get through on their site here.
Q: Will mail be delayed because of the coronavirus?
A: It isn’t now, but we’ll let you know if that changes.
It may be safe to send and receive letters, but many have found themselves wondering if letters will still reach their destination in a normal amount of time amidst all the changes businesses have made to minimize the spread of Covid-19.
At least for now, the answer is that things are progressing more or less as usual. Letters are still being delivered in the usual amount of time through the regular postal service, and most letters sent through Sandboxx will still reach basic training the next day, just like always.
Of course, this is one answer that may change over time. As America continues to manage this outbreak, some services may run into delays. Remember that if delays do come, they’re likely the result of ensuring the safety of the package carriers.
Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.
Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”
We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.
WATM: What prompted this?
Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!
I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.
Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.
One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!
So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.
And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!
Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana
WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.
Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!
So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.
Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana
WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?
Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!
Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.
WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?
Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.
The hotline was the subject of the 2014 Academy Award-winning documentary “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” which profiles several Veterans’ Crisis Line counselors who work the 24-hour service to provide support and guidance to active and retired servicemen dealing with emotional, physical and financial troubles.
“We substantiated allegations that some calls routed to backup crisis centers were answered by voicemail, and callers did not always receive immediate assistance,” said a VA report filed in February 2016.
The VA estimates every sixth call is going to the backup center, where callers listen to Muzak while they wait for an operator. The VA has no information on how long the callers wait or how many give up because the backup centers are not monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since the suicide hotline was created in 2007, it has received more than two million calls and intervened on 53,000 separate occasions. The new report recommends obtaining and analyzing data on hold times, implementing call monitoring for the crisis line staff, more rigorous training with a rigorous quality assurance process.
The embattled Zumwalt-class destroyers still don’t have any ammunition, but the US Navy has an idea, or at least the beginnings of an idea.
The Navy has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade into railgun research, which has run up against several technological roadblocks. But while the railgun may not turn out to be a worthwhile project, the railgun rounds seem to show promise.
The Navy fired nearly two dozen hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs) — special rounds initially designed for electromagnetic railguns — from the Mk 45 5-inch deck gun aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Dewey at one point during 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, USNI News first reported. The guns are the same 40-year-old guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) fires its Mk 45 5-inch gun.
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Matt Bodenner)
The same concept could presumably be applied to the 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers. “That is one thing that has been considered with respect to capability for this ship class. We’re looking at a longer-range bullet that’s affordable, and so that’s one thing that’s being considered,” Capt. Kevin Smith, a program manager for the Zumwalt, revealed at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, USNI News reported Jan. 22, 2019.
“The surface Navy is really excited about this capability,” he added, saying that nothing has been decided.
This is apparently only one of several possibilities. “There are a lot of things that we’re looking at as far as deeper magazines with other types of weapons that have longer range,” Smith said. Previous considerations have included the Raytheon Excalibur 155 mm guided artillery, but that plan was abandoned.
USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000).
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Zumwalt’s 155 mm AGS guns, intended to strike targets farther than 80 miles away, are ridiculously expensive to fire — a single Long Range Land Attack Projectile costs almost id=”listicle-2626896386″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.
Since then, the Navy has been looking hard at other alternatives.
The Navy “will be developing either the round that goes with that gun or what we are going to do with that space if we decide to remove that gun in the future,” Vice Adm. William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee in November 2018, Breaking Defense reported at the time.
So, if the Navy can’t find suitable ammunition for the stealth destroyers, it may end up scrapping the guns altogether to be replaced with something else down the road.
Despite repeated setbacks, which include everything from loss of stealth to engine and electrical problems, the Navy said “the ship is doing fine.” Merz told Congress that the vessel should be operational by 2021.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Many people were thanking him for his service, and frankly it just felt like the only reason he wore that was to be in the spotlight and make it about him, which I don’t think you are supposed to do at someone else’s wedding,” she said.
“If he wants to wear that to his own wedding then fine, but the whole point of having a dress code at a wedding is so that no one guest will stand out too much.
“I felt that he should have known this, since the whole point of uniforms in the military is so that you don’t stand out from everyone else!”
People in the forum were divided over whose side to take.
Some people pointed out that the marines formal uniform “looks classy and black tie,” but others argued it was “extremely disrespectful.”
The majority agreed that both the bride and the guest behaved badly.
As a former army sergeant pointed out: “Wearing formal military wear at formal civilian events is allowed per regulations (Army is AR 670-1, no clue for marines), but you have to be a special kind of a—— to wear it to a non-military wedding without specific permission of the couple.
Marines assigned to The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon)
“The reason for this is the same as wearing white to a wedding — this puts you in competition with the bride. He should have dressed in civilian-wear, or at very least, checked with the couple getting married.”
As for the bride’s decision to ask him to leave, the former sergeant said that “kicking him out of the wedding was a bit much.”
“It’s your special day, but you shouldn’t forget that you play dual roles — you are both the host and the one fêted. Don’t forget that former role.
“You probably should have grimaced and just gone with it along with other faux pas such as Uncle Larry puking in the bushes and cousin Jenny making out with the DJ. With 300 guests, one person in uniform isn’t going to kill your day.”
This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
While the Pentagon has questioned the need for a dedicated Space Force, the U.S. is already a signatory to multiple space treaties that spell out its obligations in the final frontier. And there are already a number of missions being done by other forces that would clearly be the purview of an independent Space Force.
Here are nine things the Space Force must do — and two things it can’t.
They probably won’t need so many graphical overlays to do it, though.
Protect American satellites
American satellites are one of the most important parts of modern, digital infrastructure. They’re also extremely vulnerable. They’re under constant threat of striking debris that’s already flying through orbit and China and Russia both have demonstrated the capabilities to bring one down at any time.
A Space Force would likely be tasked with building countermeasures to protect these valuable assets. Oncoming missiles could be confused with jamming or brought down with lasers — but lasers can also serve as an offensive weapon against enemy satellites. Additionally, some spacefaring nations, including the U.S., are developing technologies that could allow them to seize enemy satellites and steer them into danger.
Tactical battles in space sound complicated.
(U.S. Air Force)
Identify enemy killer satellites and template attacks against them
Speaking of which, the Space Force will likely need intelligence assets to identify satellites with offensive capabilities and template ways to neutralize them quickly in a space war. Satellites could be the U-boats of a future conflict, and the best way to stop them before they can hide amidst the space junk is to take them out at the first sign of conflict.
Satellites are expensive. And hard to make. And worse to replace.
(U.S. Air Force)
Ensure plans for the replacement constellations are viable
But there’s no way that American defenses could stop all — or likely even the majority of — attacks. Luckily, DARPA and other agencies are already testing potential ways to rapidly rebuild capabilities after an attack.
They’ve tested launching moderate-sized satellites from F-16s as well as sending up rockets with many small satellites that work together to achieve their mission, creating a dispersed network that’s harder to defeat.
(Graphic by U.S. Air Force)
Figure out how to destroy space debris
We mentioned space debris earlier — and it’s important for a few reasons. First, it’s a constant threat to satellites. But more importantly for strategic planners, most methods of quickly destroying an enemy’s satellite constellation will create thousands (if not millions) of pieces of debris that could eventually destroy other satellites in orbit, including those of the attacking nation.
So, to create a credible threat of using force against other nations’ satellites, the U.S. will need a plan for destroying any space debris it creates. The most pragmatic solution is to create weapons that can kill satellites without creating debris, like the lasers and killbots. But those same lasers and killbots could be used to clear out debris after satellites are killed with missiles.
China has proposed a “space broom,” armed with a weak laser that could clear debris (and, purely coincidentally, might also be used to destroy satellites).
Air Force graphics are as complicated as Army graphics. I wonder if everyone thought it was the graphics that decided who got the Space Force? (You win this round, Air Force).
(U.S. Air Force)
Protect American industry in space
The U.S. military branches are often called to protect national interests. Among those national interests is business — and business in space is likely to be massive in the near future, from private space companies teasing the possibility of tourism to asteroid mining to zero-gravity manufacturing.
Of course, building the infrastructure to do these things in space will be expensive and extremely challenging. To make sure that America can still gather resources and manufacture specialized goods — and that the military and government can buy those goods and resources — the Space Force will be tasked with protecting American interests in space.
There is little standardized equipment between different space agencies, though Russia does share some matching equipment thanks to their access to Space Shuttle schematics when overhauling the Soviet space program. The Space Force will likely have to figure out ways to rescue astronauts and civilians in space despite equipment differences.
Yeah, you guys can hitch a ride. Did you bring your own spacesuit or do you need a loaner?
(Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ian Dudley)
Provide orbital rides for other branches
While the Marine Corps has already done some preliminary work on how to move its Marines via orbit, little planning exists for the nitty gritty details of moving troops through space. All of the branches will likely develop some tools for moving personnel, but Congress will likely demand that the branches prevent unnecessary redundancy — like how the Army has its own boats, planes, and helicopters, but has to get most of its rides from the Navy and Air Force.
The Space Force will be the pre-eminent branch in space, and will likely need the spaceports and shuttles to match.
Learn to steer (or at least divert) asteroids
Currently, NASA has the lead on detecting near-Earth objects and preventing collisions, but the military generally gets the bigger budget and, as they say, “with great funds comes great responsibility.”
Of course, the Space Force won’t be all shuttle pilots and flight attendants — the admin folks will have a lot of paperwork to do, too. Another U.S. space treaty obligates America to provide details of every object it launches into space as well as every person who enters space.
All of those details that get passed when personnel enter or leave a country will also have to get passed when they enter or leave space, necessitating an admin corps who join the space force exclusively to pass paperwork.
If you think that makes the Space Force more boring, just wait until you see the things they, by treaty, aren’t allowed to do.
Super sexy — but also not allowed to be based on the Moon.
(U.S. Air Force)
No carrying weapons of mass destruction
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans any spacefaring nation from putting weapons of mass destruction in orbit or basing them on celestial bodies, like the Moon. So, no Space Marines with nuclear missiles in orbit. Rockets, bullets, and lasers? Maybe.
Nukes? No way. Gotta leave those back on Earth.
No building military bases on celestial bodies
Even worse news for Space Force personnel: They can’t have any dedicated military bases on celestial objects either, also due to that same Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The U.S. will need to renegotiate the treaty, build more space stations, or keep nearly all Space Force personnel on Earth, only sending them up for short missions.
Jonathan Pollard, the most damaging spy in U.S. history, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing documents to Israel. After thirty years in jail, he was released on parole to great fanfare from his wife, the government in Israel, and the American pro-Israel lobby. According to Pollard’s lawyers, he will be required to wear an electronic bracelet so his movements can be monitored at all times and his computers and those of any employer who hires him will be subjected to “unfettered monitoring and inspection.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the release “a dream come true” and that “the people of Israel welcome his release.” The PM’s office restricted celebrations of his release in hopes the American government will allow him to travel to Israel sooner.
While Israel is an American ally and has access to a lot of American intelligence, the information provided by Pollard to Israel is said to have caused grave damage to the national security of the United States. The information was so damaging, when President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, presented an assessment of Pollard’s spying to the presiding judge in his trial, the judge threw out Pollard’s plea deal and threw the book at him and his wife.
Weinberger said he sought to “dispel any presumption that disclosures to an ally are insignificant; to the contrary, substantial and irrevocable damage has been done to this nation.”
The most damaging release included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next.
The memo said many documents the spy gave the Israelis included details on sourcing and the identifications of U.S. agents abroad. Among other information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
“Unauthorized disclosures to friendly powers may cause as great a harm to the national security as to hostile powers because, once the information is removed from secure control systems, there is no enforceable requirement nor any incentive to provide effective controls for its safekeeping,” the memo read.
The CIA believes the information Pollard gave them might have been traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for looser travel restrictions of Russian Jews trying to emigrate to Israel.
Pollard claimed he was acting in a sense of altruism and loyalty toward Israel. Yet, In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan as well. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. And for all of Pollard’s altruism, he accepted more than $30,000 in cash and luxury items from Israel in exchange for information.
Many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
On June 8, 2017, an American pilot scored one of the first American air-to-air kill since the 1999 Kosovo War, shooting down an armed drone being used by the Syrian government. Details of what plane scored the kill and how it was executed were not immediately released.
Previously, a U.S. aircraft reportedly shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in 2009 over Iraq.
The statement also reported that in an incident earlier that day, two “armed technical vehicles” were destroyed after entering a “de-confliction zone” and approaching coalition troops.
“Coalition forces have been located at At Tanf for more than a year. The garrison is a temporary coalition location to train vetted forces to defeat ISIS and will not be vacated until ISIS is defeated,” the allied statement added.
This was not the first incident near the base. A statement released the day before the strike by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters reported that pro-Assad forces in Syria had sent troops toward the temporary coalition base at At Tanf that included a tank, artillery, and 60 personnel. After repeated warnings via an emergency communication line were ignored, coalition forces carried out strikes that destroyed two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft gun, while damaging a tank.
“As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward Coalition and partnered forces the potential for conflict is escalated,” the statement by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said.
Despite the incidents, the release from the headquarters did not seek a fight with the Assad regime or those backing it. However, the statement declared said Syrian army probes “continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.
Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”
Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.
The Army’s troubled program to buy a new standard-issue handgun for soldiers was the subject of renewed debate on Capitol Hill.
During Thursday’s confirmation hearing for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become defense secretary in the Trump administration, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina took turns criticizing the service’s XM19 Modular Handgun System (MHS) program, a $350 million competition to buy a replacement to the Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol.
At a time when Russia is upgrading its service rifle, “we continue to modify our M4s [and] many of our troops still carry M16s, the Army can’t even figure out how to replace the M9 pistol, first issued in 1982,” Ernst said.
The senator, a frequent critic of the program who in 2015 retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, said she and others would joke while in the military that “sometimes the most efficient use of an M9 is to simply throw it at your adversary.”
Ernst blasted the Modular Handgun Program’s many requirements. “Take a look at their 350-page micromanaging requirements document if you want to know why it’s taking so long to get this accomplished,” she said.
She also mocked the stopping power of the 5.56mm rifle round. “Our military currently shoots a bullet that, as you know, is illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power,” she said.
Tillis went even further by showing up to the hearing with the pistol program’s full several hundred pages of requirements documents wrapped in red ribbon. “This is a great testament to what’s wrong with defense acquisition,” he said, slapping the three-inch-tall stack of paperwork.
In response, Mattis said, “I can’t defend this,” but added, “I will say that at times there were regulations that required us to do things.”
Coincidentally, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was asked about the program earlier in the day at a breakfast sponsored by the Association of the United States Army. Milley was tight-lipped about the effort but hinted the service is making progress.
Beretta, FN Herstal, Sig Sauer and Glock are reportedly still competing for the program after the Army dropped Smith Wesson from the competition last year. We’re hoping these gunmakers will help shed more light on the status of the program next week at SHOT Show in Las Vegas.